Together with the polarization of our politics has come a seismic shift in the language landscape of the United States. The charged issue of political correctness is particularly central to many of the visceral debates surrounding the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, and it has made its way in earnest into the commercial space.
The discussions about political correctness have in large part failed to bridge any divide between left and right when it comes to addressing crucial issues central to our national identity. If anything, the rise of Trump has thrown political correctness, and in many ways decency, to the wayside, in favor of crass, simplistic and divisive rhetoric.
This growing chasm in what people deem acceptable to say or do has begun to manifest itself in the commercial space, with companies taking a more visible political stance based on their values.
“In most cases corporations don’t want to ruffle any feathers when it comes to politics,” Michael Maslansky, CEO of the language strategy firm maslansky+partners, told Red, White & Blog. “With the rise of Trump, however, and the tribalization and polarization we’ve seen over this cycle, companies feel they have to take a stronger stance and stand up for certain values.”
We’ve seen this explicitly with Kellogg deciding to drop its ads run on Breitbart, and earlier in the presidential season when various companies pulled their sponsorship of the Republican National Convention.
Maslansky explains that there are a number of reasons why companies feel compelled to wade into the political waters, despite a general predisposition to remain nonpartisan. “When customers become vocal, and especially when companies have a target demographic that leans millennial (or female), many feel compelled to pick a side or take a stand. This is especially the case when an executive might be uniquely outspoken.”
There is always the fear of fallout -- and only time will tell how the public or politicians will react.
“We started telling our clients who were outspoken against Donald Trump during the campaign that they can’t walk away from their criticism, period,” added Maslansky.
As the breakdown of trust between institutions and the people continues, particularly with the left, corporations will have a unique chance to serve as beacons of liberal and progressive values, Maslansky noted.
Companies like Amazon, PepsiCo and Unilever that are outspoken about environmental issues will have more of a mandate to continue to do so, as will the likes of organizations like NBA and NCAA, which have been vocal in advocating for gender and LGBT rights.