November 17, 2021
Enterprise Tech forresterblog Innovation Technology

A Brand’s Values Must Withstand The Pressure Of Politics

When MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the league’s decision to relocate the All-Star Game out of Georgia, it triggered a partisan firestorm — there was support and there was opposition. While some government leaders in the US have advised CEOs to stay out of politics, 68% of US adults believe that CEOs are best positioned to drive real change in America. The reality today is that human issues are political issues. And if companies are committed to standing by their values, politics are unavoidable. But that doesn’t mean a given brand should take on every single issue. 

As part of Forrester report, “Brands And Politics Collide,” Forrester conducted a survey of US consumers, presenting them with 21 different political issues and asking (for each one) to what degree a brand should take a stand on them. Forrester then created a “political consensus index” from the survey responses (below). 

A political issue with an index over 100 means that more people agree that brands should “lead the change” on that given issue, versus “stay out of it completely.” Forrester calls these consensus values. For example, US adults are 2.5 times more likely than not to agree that brands should lead the change on face-mask wearing. And when it comes to Gen Z adults (ages 18–24), note how they over-index on all but one of the political issues we surveyed them on. Of course, Gen Z is the most diverse and values-sensitive of all generations — an important consideration as brands plan for the next-generation consumer. 

Why does this matter? Because a brand’s stance on political issues affects consumer choices. Forrester found that when choosing between two similar products from two different brands, 43% of US adults will favor the one that takes a stand on shared political values. The opposite is also true: A participant in our online qualitative research session posted, “I take politics real seriously, and if [a brand] espouses a certain public stance that I really disagree with, then I’m done with them.” Yet only 29% of US adults disagree that companies have a responsibility to participate in debates about current issues. 

If, when and how a brand should speak out on politically debated issues is now a front-and-center quandary for marketers. As the collisions between brands and politics increase, how do c-suite executives navigate this? Company values set a brand’s boundaries around politics and determine when to choose a side. MLB’s statement about the All-Star game read: “The best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.” Forrester data reveals that 53% of US adults prefer to buy from brands that stay true to their own values. 

To learn more about navigating through the politically charged consumer climate, please register for Forrester’s CX North America here. 

This post was written by VP and Research Director Mike Proulx, and it originally appeared here.