One in three consumers say they would actively buy more goods or services from a brand they already do business with if that brand took a stance on a controversial political/social issue that aligned with their beliefs. However 22% would get rid of a brand’s products if that brand took a stance on a controversial political/social issue counter to their beliefs.
These findings are part of a report conducted by Toluna and Unmetric based on a U.S. consumer survey and an analysis of the social media impact of select brands, including Nike and Patagonia.
While the consumers that responded to the surveys were not necessarily the same consumers represented in the social media analysis, the goal was to identify any significant patterns or similarities across the qualitative and quantitative data.
Half of the survey respondents are aware of these social/political advertisements, with 39% believing brands should make a bold statement (41% say no).
"The big takeaway here for brands are the financial repercussions they have to consider before taking a stance on a controversial issue," says Lux Narayan, CEO, Unmetric. "Brand advertisers and agencies need to conduct comprehensive research to determine which customers and other sources of revenue it can afford to sacrifice versus those it should double down on."
There is undeniably a risk and reward for staking a bold position. More than one in four consumers (26%) are willing to pay a higher price for a product that aligns with their beliefs versus an alternative less expensive brand, yet 45% are currently boycotting a brand that took a stance on controversial issues that ran counter to their beliefs. Nearly four in 10 (38%) have unfollowed a brand on social media if they disagree with their advocacy, with 45% continuing to ghost the brand.
Individually, however, brands largely reap benefits from their actions. Nike added 30 times more Twitter followers on the day the ‘Colin K’ ad campaign debuted compared to its daily average and saw 312 times more @-mentions by users on Twitter.
Patagonia added 19 times more fans on Facebook on the day it debuted ‘The President Stole Your Land’ campaign compared to its daily average. And Airbnb saw 17 times more @-mentions by users on Twitter on the day the ‘We Accept’ ad campaign debuted compared to its daily average and the post was shared 438 more times than its average.
PayPal's decision to not open an office in Charlotte, NC due to its controversial bathroom policy experienced a slight uptick in followers across social media, but Ben & Jerry's with its climate change ad and YoPlait's Mom On campaign barely made any noticeable difference, either negative or positive.
It should be noted that social media activity doesn't correlate with increased sales, though both Nike and Patagonia have reported stronger sales in recent quarters.
"So before taking a leap, a brand should assess the factors at play and determine whether the upside of attracting and retaining customers, investors and other stakeholders outweighs inevitably alienating others," says Narayan.
Toluna surveyed 1,000 Americans ages 18-55+, while Unmetric evaluated user engagement and metrics before and after the brands posted content to their social channels.