Should companies be politically active?


In the overly politicized climate we are living in, can companies remain neutral? For many businesses, steering clear of controversial issues is all about self-preservation.

CEOs and owners worry that speaking out will affect their bottom line and isolate customers. However, choosing to remain silent can also have a negative effect.

The well-known clothing brand American Eagle has embraced issues such as gun control and gay rights and doesn’t shy away from using their robust social media presence to encourage their younger customer base to get involved in advocacy.

A recent Fast Company article states that the company’s decision to support the progressive causes of its target audience (ages 15 to 25) did not come casually.

While American Eagle has been doing focus groups and customer surveys for decades, the company now says its data science and analytics teams helped bolster its move — as do its Gen Z employees who are tasked with steering executives away from ideas that may be off-putting to their peers.

Understanding your customer base is key in determining the right move for your company. The millennial generation is shaping the behavior of brands, and they are demanding action. A recent study by the PR agency Weber Shandwick found that 47 percent of millennials think CEOs should speak up and take active stances on social issues. Some 51 percent of millennials surveyed said they are more likely to buy products from companies that have activist CEOs. Another study by Cone Communications shows that 91 percent of millennials will switch brands to one associated with a cause.

You have to do what is best for your culture, employees and customers. Companies don’t make the conscious choice to alienate a customer; however, the current political environment will sometimes dictate otherwise.

Should part of your marketing strategy involve speaking up for your company’s values? At the end of the day, if remaining silent is impacting sales, hurting retention and attraction, or your conscience, then take a stand and speak up.

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