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In the wake of the 2016 election, agency professionals stress that it’s important to understand the demographics and values of a brand’s customers, according to a recent 4A’s survey, which examined consumers’ and ad agency professionals’ thoughts regarding brands that publicize their political or social beliefs. One-third of 4A’s members surveyed advised more diverse perspectives in creative or planning.

While the major takeaway for agency professionals is that it’s more understand customer demographics and values, respondents are fairly split on what that means in terms of action. While some have counseled clients to avoid engaging with controversial sociopolitical issues (30%), others recommended that clients align with sociopolitical issues that are authentic to the brand (25%).

Consumers Dislike Brands That Get Political

Although two-thirds of agency professionals believe that today’s climate is causing brands to become more interested in corporate responsibility and values-based marketing, there may not be too many benefits in doing so. The consumer portion of the study found that respondents are more likely to avoid brands that support a negative message (those considered racist, sexist, etc.) than they are to support brands that support a positive message (those considered to be inclusive, pro-LGBTQ, etc.). As such, the risks of taking stands on sociopolitical issues may outweigh the rewards.

Demographics and Values Matter

Even so, as the 4A’s members note, it’s essential to understand your customer. A good example of this on a demographic basis relates to age: nearly half of Millennials in another report say that they approve of brands taking a public stance on an issue, compared with only 41% of Generation Xers and 27% of Baby Boomers. Understanding customer values also matters, as demonstrated by the fact that two-thirds of the respondents to that survey said they would boycott a brand if they disagreed with the company’s political views.

About the Data: This report was based on a member survey of 329 4A members completed in April and May 2017 via email and by a consumer survey by research partner SSRS between March 29, 2017 and April 7, 2017 with a nationally representative sample of 1,056 respondents aged 18+.

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