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24 November 2021
Brands navigate the new US political divide
Brand activismEnvironmental & social issuesUnited States
While business and politics have never been as separate as some like to claim, for brands and those that speak for them, determining when to stay silent and when to speak is now a major headache.
Why it matters
Images of Nike shoes burning and Keurig coffee makers plummeting from windows were angry responses to marketing creative and media decisions, respectively – one for showing support to the activist and former NFL star Colin Kaepernick in a wildly successful campaign; the other for pulling its ads from the Sean Hannity show.
But the issues under discussion now are more fundamental: voting rights and new efforts across the country to limit who can vote. The public expects a stance, and increasingly so do employees.
Speaking to the New York Times, Tim Ryan, US chairman and senior partner of professional services firm PwC, notes that a key problem for companies is about getting an accurate read on what to do: “They’re trying to figure that out. What’s important to my employees, customers and investors?”
But for many people, issues like voting rights aren’t merely questions of politics but of hard-won fundamentals of citizenship, whose understanding of their absence persists in living memory. Some executives believe that as businesses become more diverse, from the board through the rank and file, more robust stances from companies are likely.