Last updated on January 12th, 2022 at 08:22 pm
Although corporations are now quick to jump on the bandwagon and issue statements on social and political issues, their actions may in fact be doing them more harm than good.
Such is the finding of a new report by global advisory firm Brunswick Group. “In a highly complex civic, socio-economic and communications environment,” the report opens, “there is enormous pressure on organizations to respond to everything that is happening.”
This probably resounds to consumers in the pandemic environment particularly. We all remember the early days of the pandemic, when everyone from the local electric company to your dog food manufacturer was furiously issuing emails, Tweets, and other statements with weighty titles like, “What We’re Doing to Keep You Safe” or “How We’re Fighting COVID-19.” On plenty of issues since (Black Lives Matter, gun violence, healthcare reform, climate change, political elections, etc.) corporations have seemingly felt the pressure to opine… and quickly.
But Brunswick finds that instead of viewing them as mere ploys to gain favorable opinion and increase profit margins, consumers remain largely skeptical of corporations’ authenticity on such issues. While a whopping 63% of corporate executives believe that the companies they steer should speak out on social issues, only 36% of American voters believe the same. And while nearly 75% of corporate executives believe that such communications have been meaningful and successful, only 39% of voters believe so. The results are even more stratified if one compares Trump vs. Biden voters, with Trump voters being far more skeptical of corporate wokeism than are Biden voters. While 50% of Biden voters believe that corporations are either “very” or “somewhat” effective at speaking on social issues, only 26% of Trump voters believe so.
Also interesting is the disparity of the issues that corporate executives and American voters find to be all-important. While the two groups agree that healthcare is the most important issue facing America today, they diverge after that. Corporate executives have climate change, data privacy, racism, and gun violence in places 2-5 of the most pressing issues facing America today. For voters, those spots belong to homelessness, mental health, unemployment, and crime prevention. Racism does make an appearance on the list, at number 10. Gun violence is at number 8. And while corporate executives list gender equality as the 10th most pressing issue, that topic doesn’t make the top 10 at all with average voters.
So disillusioned are American voters that they even find corporations’ helping actions—donating money, investing in local community development programs, announcing plans to increase diversity, etc.—to be mostly inauthentic. The one exception to this list is natural disaster relief. This is the only action corporations can take that a majority of Americans (roughly 50%) believe to be authentic.
So what does Brunswick make of all this data? In their words, “Voters are skeptical of corporate statements on social issues.” Or, and more entertaining, “Your assumptions about your audiences’ interest in hearing from you on social issues are likely overestimated.” The divide between the elites at the top of America’s leading corporations and the actual Americans consuming their products is wide, and ever-growing. And those same elites would do well to listen more, and preach less.