American consumers prefer corporations to stick with business issues, and steer away from controversial topics like politics and social justice, according to a business survey (pdf) by advisory firm Brunswick Group.
“Only a minority of voters (36%) agree unequivocally that companies should speak out on social issues, compared to 63% of corporate executives,” revealing a disconnect between mainstream consumers and business leaders.
Dubbed “The Talking Trap,” Brunswick research points out that corporate executives have a tendency to respond to multiple issues happening in society, but data reveals that people “across every part of the political and socio-economic spectrum” simply disbelieve their talking points.
This gap in trust arises because many so-called leaders do not practice what they preach. “Investments don’t match intentions.”
Consumers believe that the statements put out by executives are “too reflexive,” and are not related to the business of the organization. This form of communication soon turns “superficial” as the purpose is lost, and there is no meaningful connection made with the audience.
Moreover, “the voting public simply disagrees with the social stances that many corporations are taking.”
As the report simply states, “People are tired of politics.” Whether it’s Democrats or Republicans, the general public have had their fill and “don’t want to read about politics or watch it on TV.” They also don’t want corporations to weigh in with their opinions on the latest news hypes and trends.
Across political lines, “Trump voters are less open to companies speaking out on social issues than Biden voters, but even Biden voters think corporate executives need to weigh in less.”
Research from Gallup reveals that people have increasingly lost confidence in all American institutions except the police, military, and small business, according to Brunswick. Less than 40 percent of people consider corporate communication regarding social events effective, vastly contrasting the 74 percent of executives who feel otherwise.
In short, it appears companies ought to think more before positing an opinion that they believe is in public good.
Then there is the disparity between what the public considers relevant and important versus what company executives consider relevant and important. Out of a list of popular issues of the day, business leaders consider “data privacy,” “racial equity,” and “gender equality” important, but these are not issues worth considering for the general public.
Similarly, “mental health,” “poverty,” and “homelessness,” which are big issues for voters, did not rank high for company executives.
The researchers recommend companies develop a “grounded strategy to address these issues,” think about “how and when to weigh in,” and ensure that “any contribution to wider social engagement is actionable.”
The Brunswick Insight survey, taken from Sept. 29 to Oct. 7, featured 301 U.S. corporate executives and 800 2020-voters. The executives were C-level employees working at companies with at least $50 million in annual revenue, while the public was a balanced set of voters who were registered in the 2020 presidential election.