Are brands being scrutinized more now than ever before?

New research suggests that more Canadians are boycotting brands that ignore COVID-19 needs and the fight against racial injustice.


A pair of new reports shed light on the factors that distinguish brand trust winners and losers, as Canadians continue to deal with a pandemic and remain focused on the role that companies play in addressing racial justice.

First, a special report from Edelman’s Trust Barometer, unveiled on July 28, found that brands’ pandemic responses are growing in influence.

The global PR firm polled 22,000 respondents across 11 markets, including more than 2,000 from Canada, between May 27 and June 5. It found that 91% of Canadians today want brands to shift money and resources to produce products that help meet pandemic-related challenges.

Compared with the findings of another Edelman report in April, more consumers are currently buying and boycotting brands over their pandemic responses than they were during the earlier stages of the health crisis.

In April, 26% of surveyed Canadians said they tried a new brand due to “the innovative or compassionate way they have responded to the virus outbreak.” As of June, that percentage has grown nine points to 35%.

Similarly, 24% of respondents in April declared having convinced other people to stop using a brand they “felt was not acting appropriately in response to the pandemic.” A total of 34% said the same come June, an increase of 10 points.

But the pandemic is not the only issue consumers are concerned about.

In Edelman’s Trust Barometer from June, 65% of Canadians said it was important that brands “take the steps necessary to ensure that their organization is racially representative of the country as a whole” if they want to earn and keep consumer trust. Fifty-seven percent agreed that brands “owe it to their employees to speak out against systemic racism and racial injustice.”

What’s more, 84% of Canadians said a brand’s response to racial injustice would cause them to gain trust; 19% said it would cause them to lose trust. For brands, this means the opportunity to gain trust is 4.5 times higher than the risk of losing trust, according to Edelman.

These findings are echoed in a survey from FleishmanHillard HighRoad, released July 22, that found Canadians are ahead of other countries in holding CEOs and their companies to a higher standard during the COVID-19 crisis.

The report, conducted with help from FleishmanHillard’s TRUE Global Intelligence practice, found that “Canadians, more so than respondents in other countries surveyed, generally expect the companies they interact with to make value-led decisions on important issues like racism, the environment and wage gaps.”

It found 69% of Canadians believe companies should take a stand on equality and racism, compared to an average of 59% of respondents in other countries; 52% of Canadians expect CEOs to “show empathy and compassion for their communities” in their words and actions (compared to 41% globally), and 46% want them to take a stand against issues related to racial inequality (versus 32% globally).

“No one expected the world to change overnight, but it did,” said Angela Carmichael, president of FleishmanHillard HighRoad, in a release. “With this change comes a more engaged consumer – conscious about what companies they align with and where they spend money. Consumers are treating each purchase like a pledge of support, and companies are being scrutinized by Canadians like never before.”

Photo by Scott Graham via Unsplash.