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Taking a Stance in an Increasingly Polarized World

Published on December 4, 2018, at 6:00 p.m.
by Savanna Guitard.

In an era defined by politicization and polarization, is it possible for brands to watch from the sidelines? It can seem daunting for a large company to take a stance on a political issue, yet companies who publicly take a certain side are believed to have well-defined values and a strong relationship with customers.

Paul Holmes, the founder and chair of The Holmes Group, advises that companies take a stance on issues they support. “There is no right or wrong as much as there is determination to stand for what you stand for,” Holmes said. “What has changed is that neutrality is no longer an option.”

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While it is a big risk for companies to show their political views, The Harris Poll found that 62 percent of “CCOs now believe the risk of not taking a stand outweighs the risk of taking a stance.” The top 10 most trusted companies of 2018 include Chick-fil-A, a company “known for promoting social conservative values,” and Patagonia, which is known for its progressive views.

Chick-fil-A’s corporate purpose “to glorify God” reflects its founder’s Christian faith,  and all locations remain closed on Sundays. These actions and others signify to customers that the company has a conservative leaning. The company has received backlash over its views, but its sales have continued to grow from $6.8 billion in 2015 to $8 billion in 2016.

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After President Trump passed a bill to reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah, Patagonia’s CEO and founder responded that he was going to sue. He also replaced his company’s website homepage with a banner reading “The President Stole Your Land.”  This action aligns with the company’s push for environmental activism. Even though Patagonia has taken a political stand, it still has higher loyalty than its competitors, The North Face and Columbia.

These are just two examples of companies who have taken a stance and remained successful. Despite hesitation from other companies to weigh in on political issues, 66 percent of customers want companies to vocalize their opinions in big issues according to a Sprout Social study . When a company shows the social issues it’s passionate about, it reinforces the brand’s authenticity and sense of honesty to the public. Even if a customer doesn’t agree with the company’s political views, they can still respect that the company stays true to its values.

Taking a stance also enhances a company’s brand experience. It gives customers a chance to show their support or interact with the company even if they disagree with its view. Whether a customer reaches out to a company in a positive or negative way, it’s an opportunity for the company to get personal and build relationships.

The goal of companies is to create lasting relationships with customers in order to build brand loyalty and remain successful over time. By showing their political views, companies connect to customers on a different level. They are proving that they care about the same issues that the public does and aren’t just concerned with making money.

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