Most Americans expect brands to take stand on racism

11 June 2020 3 min. read
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Sixty percent of Americans say that brands must take a stand and speak out on racial injustice, according to a June survey of 2000 US respondents conducted by public relations consulting firm Edelman.

Sixty percent also said that they would buy or boycott a brand based on how it responds to the current protests.

This aligns with the growing trend of “belief-based buyers” who want a brand to share their values, as well as advocate for them. An earlier 2018 global survey from Edelman found that 64% of consumers would buy or boycott a brand based on its position on a social or political issue.

“Brands are now being pushed to go beyond their classic business interests to become advocates. It is a new relationship between company and consumer, where purchase is premised on the brand’s willingness to live its values, act with purpose, and if necessary, make the leap into activism,” CEO Richard Edelman said in 2018.

People will buy or boycott based on brand’s response to protests

The current corporate social responsibility imperative has solidified around anti-racism, in the wake of widespread protests after the death of George Floyd in police custody. Fifty-five percent of white consumers would buy or boycott based on a brand’s response to current protests, compared to 80% of black consumers; 65% of Latinx; and 68% of Asian Americans.

Younger consumers were likeliest to boycott, at 78% of ages 18-34 compared to 48% of those age 55 or older.

Political affiliation also played a role in brand expectations. Only 40% of Republicans expect brands to take a stand on racism, versus 80% of Democrats. Forty-three percent of Republicans said they would buy or boycott brands depending on their actions around correcting racial injustice, compared to 78% of Democrats.

Brands must get their own house in orderSixty percent of Americans said that brands need to use their marketing dollars to advocate for racial equality, with a higher 70% of POCs saying so. However, the promises and statements of brands need to be backed by action, or else they risk being seen as exploitative (63%).

As such, 60% of respondents said that brands need to invest in addressing the root causes of racial inequality to earn or retain their trust. Nearly two-thirds said that brands should reflect the diversity of the country within their own organizations, as well as in their products and communications.

Companies that take a stand can expect to gain consumer trust, according to the Edelman survey. Four times as many respondents said that taking a stand gained trust instead of losing it.

“The tide toward social activism for brands – one we’ve observed for many years – is coming to shore,” said Lisa Ross, US chief operating officer at Edelman. ”And, importantly, it’s here to stay. Not only are consumers demanding immediate action, they are also looking for a sustained movement in how brands think and communicate.”

She added, “This is a moment, but it’s not just a moment in time. It begins what will likely be a sustained and systemic shift by companies and brands, in partnership with their employees and consumers. Those in it for the long haul will reap the benefits of moral and social justice, more devoted consumers, and peace of mind.”