The 2016 U.S. presidential election highlighted a deep divisiveness among American consumers. Since then, consumer trust in government has fallen, replaced by a heightened consumer expectation for corporate citizenship.
But it isn’t only the U.S. Edelman’s 2018 Earned Brand Study found that 64 percent of global consumers want CEOs to “take the lead on change rather than waiting for the government to impose it.” Similarly, the study determined that 53 percent of consumers believe that corporations are more able to contribute solutions for social issues than the government.
Perhaps more important for business leaders, the Edelman study found that 64 percent of global consumers across all age groups and income levels make belief-based purchase decisions. In other words, they “will choose, switch, avoid, or boycott a brand based on where it stands on the political or social issues they care about.” A similar study by growing technology firm Morning Consult found that, in the U.S., 59 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of Republicans consider corporate political stances to be important when purchasing products.
Business schools teach future executives that the primary aim of a corporation is to increase shareholder value. If that is true, and 64 percent of consumers buy according to their beliefs, has taking a stand on issues become a CEO’s fiduciary duty?
Political ideals as part of a value proposition
Companies can now add their political ideals to the value proposition presented to consumers. Those that don’t may lose revenue to those that do. This idea directly contradicts the norms of corporate communication of the 1990s, 2000s, and even the early 2010s. Then, it was common for brands to stay out of debate, send out carefully curated press releases,...
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