When Brands Take Stands
Conventional wisdom says it’s usually good business to stay out of political dogfights, but conventional thinking misses a fast-moving and profound shift underway in corporate America. Consumers, especially millennials, are setting new expectations for brands they love, and workers are demanding that their employers embrace and celebrate diversity. Tolerance doesn’t cut it anymore.
Millennials are the most sought-after consumer demographic in marketing. They’re young (all have been born since 1981), and they will be the richest generation in American history. They are expected to pump $200 billion into the economy each year starting in 2017, which amounts to about $10 trillion in economic consumption during their lifetimes. And 70% of Millennials report strong loyalty to brands they prefer.
Top marketers usually see themselves as conveners of cultural moments and conversations. They want to be part of the zeitgeist, to always be where the puck is going, and never, ever to be on the wrong side of history.
Companies have other, legitimate business interests in taking public policy stands. The war for talent, particularly in cities like San Francisco, New York, Austin, and Seattle, means that the progressive attitudes of the talent pool disproportionately impacts company cultures. At the end of the day, young, educated workers have their choice of employer, and most want to work somewhere that aligns with their values. If you want proof that the competition for talent is fierce, look at the list of the 379 companies - a record - that filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court in favor of marriage equality.
Employees today are also increasingly holding their companies to account, and pushing hard for values statements and policies that have teeth. Nearly 800 companies participated in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index this year, and a record 366 companies earned a 100% rating. In 2002, just 13 earned the top mark.
If corporations are people, then it turns out they’re a progressive twenty-something.
With panelists from Coca-Cola, Patagonia, and Ben & Jerry’s, We the People: When Brands Take Stands will explore the contours of this debate.