Consumers value brands’ political views, mostly

Exploring the rewards and risk when brands take a stand.

Wondering if your brand should weigh in on a divisive social issue? The majority of consumers who took part in a recent poll say they want brands to take a stand on issues. But the same survey data suggests such a move carries equal parts risk and reward.

In a survey of 1,000 people, Chicago-based social research firm Sprout Social found that the majority of polled consumers – 66% – want brands to take a strong stance on social or political issues.

But according to Sprout, such strategies matter far more to those who lean left. Most people who identify as politically liberal (78%) say they are more likely to support brands that stand for something politically or socially. Fewer conservative consumers (52%) appear interested in hearing such views from brands.

Likewise, 82% of liberals believe that brands with strong political or social positioning have increased credibility, compared to 46% of conservatives.

Overall, the risk-reward potential for getting political is still at somewhat even odds. Appealing to those who agree with your stance is often balanced by rejection by those who don’t.

For example, 44% said they’d purchase more from the brand when they agreed with its political stance, but 53% said they’d purchase less if they disagreed. Another 28% said if they agreed with a brand they would publicly promote it while 20% said they would publicly criticize the brand if they disagreed.

The platform on which audiences are most receptive to political messages is social media (58%). On television or radio, 47% of respondents said they’d be receptive, while websites and blogs posted 38% reception. Less popular were digital advertising (21%), billboards (18%) and direct mail (14%).

People are also most receptive when those stances have some sort of impact on customers (47%) or the brand’s employees (40%). Some respondents believe brands are more effective when they actually announce tangible actions to accompany their stances — 39% say it’s better when brands donate to specific causes, and 37% say it’s better when they encourage their followers to support similar causes through specific steps.