Should Brands Take Public Stances on Social Issues? Consumers Weigh In.

Brands are in the political and societal spotlight more these days – sometimes of their own accord, and sometimes not. But to what extent should brands have a voice in societal matters? Youth appear to feel more strongly about this than their older counterparts, according to a recent YouGov survey, which found half of Millennials (18-34) approving of brands taking a public stance on social issues, as opposed to only about one-quarter of Baby Boomers (55+).

Gen Xers (35-54) fall somewhere in between, with 41% believing that it’s fine for brands to take a public stand. A previous study on brands and controversial issues supports these findings, with many younger respondents feeling that brands should stick to their core values.

Of course, this can cost brands customers: most of the respondents (59%) to the YouGov survey reported being very or somewhat likely to boycott a brand if they disagreed with the company’s stance, and two-thirds support boycotts based on political views. Apparently, consumers are truly willing to put their money where their mouths are, as 6 in 10 claimed to have not made a purchase at some point in the past because they didn’t believe in what the company stood for.

Brands that simply endorse the latest movement may not be doing enough. In fact, the majority of respondents agreed with the statement that brands tend to support causes that are popular, regardless of whether they are making an authentic commitment to that cause.

There seems to be a desire for such a commitment: prior research has found that youth prize brands that work for positive social change, with a majority believing that brands should actively participate to improve causes and that they have the potential to be a force for good.

There is hope for businesses that want to associate with a worthwhile cause. Most respondents to the YouGov survey, regardless of political affiliation, believed that doing environmental good was still good for business, and an earlier report from GfK revealed that two-thirds of US consumers expected brands to be environmentally responsible.

About the Data: YouGov Omnibus surveyed 1,153 US adults between January 6-9, 2017.