NEW YORK: Brands risk alienating consumers by weighing in on controversial social issues, especially topics related to President Donald Trump, according to a report released on Monday by research firm Morning Consult.
The results showed that participating in many national debates is a losing proposition for brands. Sixty percent of those surveyed agreed with the statment, "Corporations should stick to what they do, and generally not get involved in political or cultural matters."
Only 22% disagreed and thought corporations should use their influence to "impact political and cultural issues" while 18% didn’t know or had no opinion. The level of risk increased relative to the controversy of the subject.
"The best example is the NRA issue," said Anthony Patterson, director of communications for Morning Consult. "All these brands like Delta and MetLife said they were going to end their partnerships with the NRA. When people found out they ended that relationship, they viewed [the brands] much less favorably."
More people respond positively to companies that advocate for minority rights, civil rights, criminal-justice reform or affirmative action, the research found. However, consumers react unfavorably to brands advocating for candidates of either party, gun control, immigration, kneeling during the national anthem, or abortion policy.
Patterson said the risk for brands has grown since Trump began dominating the political conversation.
"I think what’s happened is Trump has really changed the way people view everything," he said. "Every day, there is something in the news cycle that Trump has done that causes people to feel one way or the other."
For example, on NFL players kneeling in protest during the national anthem, 29% of voters who backed former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton look favorably on companies who advocate for the players; fifty-eight percent of Trump voters felt the opposite way. Thirty-eight percent of Trump voters would favor a brand that makes positive statements about the president, but 56% of Clinton voters would not.
"[Brands] just shouldn’t talk about Trump," Patterson said. "That’s the most striking thing about the survey."
Morning Consult conducted online interviews with 2,200 adults on July 13-14 and weighted the results to approximate a target sample of adults based on age, race or ethnicity, gender, educational attainment, and region. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus two percentage points.