Half of consumers favor brands that condemn the Capitol riot, study finds
After the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead, brands are facing a choice they've confronted repeatedly over the last year: Speak out or stay silent.
Several companies and agencies told Ad Age they would pause marketing efforts and social media activity. Ben & Jerry’s called for President Trump’s impeachment. And brands including Coca-Cola, Chevron, Seventh Generation and Axe made statements as company CEOs spoke out and social media platforms banned Trump. On Friday, Reddit banned the subreddit r/DonaldTrump.
As brands contemplate whether they should take a public stand, a new study from data intelligence company Morning Consult and publication Politico has found that consumers—both Democrat and Republican—are more likely to approve of statements and stances from companies that denounce those who were involved in the assault.
Half of nearly 2,000 registered voters surveyed on January 6 and 7 say they have a more favorable view of companies that condemn the riot. Of those, 40% described themselves as Democrats and 34% as Republican. Conversely, only 13% of respondents (9% Democrat and 16% Republican) feel less favorably towards brands that do speak out—a finding that led Morning Consult to encourage brands to take a stand.
“Business leaders would be wise to speak out against Wednesday’s events: Not doing so could impact their company’s reputation,” writes Victoria Sakal, managing director of brand intelligence for Morning Consult in a blog post about the study.
The study also found that 43% of consumers would purchase more from a brand that takes a stance than from those that don't; 25% say a company's stance would have no impact on their purchasing habits.
Of approximately 680 Republicans surveyed, the study found that 38% have a more favorable view of a brand condemning the riots. Sixteen percent would disapprove and 30% said it would have no impact. If a company remained silent, 21% of Republican voters surveyed said they would view that company less favorably, while 17% said they would view them positively.
In most cases, consumer support for brands stances is shared on social media. Ben & Jerry’s has already seen hundreds of thousands of likes and thousands of positive comments on its eight-part Twitter thread in which it called for the impeachment of Trump.
While consumers positively regard CEO statements or actions—including condemning the riots, thanking law enforcement, donating to police organizations and closing “at risk” stores until unrest has died down—they generally disapprove of CEO silence, donating to officials who opposed Joe Biden's Electoral College certification or defending those who broke into the Capitol.
For a brand, there’s always a risk in speaking out. While statements could garner more support from consumers, they could also come across as posturing—especially if the brand doesn’t have a history of supporting social causes or if activism isn’t engrained in its DNA. When CEOs release statements supporting political issues, they generally drop 10 to 15 points in favorability, according to the study. An event of this magnitude, however, requires a response, says Sakal.
“People often perceive corporate statements as inauthentic, opportunistic, and potentially even politically-motivated, but this time was different,” she says. “This attack on our nation became personal, threatening the fiber of our nation, and so too are the notably genuine responses we are seeing from companies reeling from this week's events alongside each of us.”