NRF: Is the time right for retailers and brands to take political stands?
In sessions at the NRF show in New York this week, brands explored the payback from taking stances on hot-button political and societal issues.
Levi Strauss president and CEO Chip Bergh noted that the company has a “long history of not being afraid to take stands on social issues,” including desegregating factories in the South 10 years before it became law. Recently, Levi’s has taken stands on same-sex partner benefits, the proposed Muslim travel ban and gun violence.
Mr. Bergh reflected, “I think the CEOs of major corporations, and the companies, have a responsibility to give back. And if you do it in an authentic way, consumers will reward you.”
Patagonia has found its consumers receptive of its heightened environmentally-friendly positions — including endorsing two senate candidates for the first time in the midterms — given the “climate crisis,” said CEO Rose Marcario. She believes that, generally, companies taking positions publicly on issues “consistent with their values are rewarded for doing it.”
Ms. Marcario feels that increased transparency is important, and that the divisive state of the country calls for “more leaders standing up for things that are aspirational.”
Dick’s Sporting Good’s decision last February to end sales of assault-style weapons and guns to anyone under 21 after the Parkland, FL school shooting had a negative impact on top-line growth in 2018, according to Ed Stack, CEO.
The decision was a culmination of several incidents since the Newtown, CT school shooting, the ”emotionally moving” Parkland tragedy and finding out the shooter bought a handgun two months before the Parkland incident at one of its stores. Mr. Stack added, “People talked about it as a tough decision, but actually it wasn’t because the right decisions are never tough decisions.”
In a keynote, Scott Galloway, founder of L2, cited Nike’s lauded marketing campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick as an example of how brand activism has emerged as a shrewd marketing tactic.
The comments came as a new Sprout Social study found that 66 percent of customers want brands to take a stand on political issues, particularly on social media.
- Peers call Levi’s CEO a retail visionary – RetailWire
- Championing Change in the Age of Social Media – Sprout Social
- Dick’s responds to Parkland teens – won’t sell AR-15s anymore – RetailWire
- Nike campaign tests ‘all publicity is good publicity’ adage – RetailWire
- Are retailers getting too political with voter registration campaigns? – RetailWire
- Woke washing: Is corporate activism just marketing? – Inside Retail
- Levi’s Wears White in Support of Same-Sex Marriage – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Has it become more beneficial for brands to take stands on societal and political issues? What advice would you have for brand and retail company leaders when it comes to taking a public stand?