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The Hidden Reason Why Companies Are Adopting ‘Social Responsibility’ in Their Branding

DICK'S Sporting Goods

After the tragic Valentine's Day shooting in Parkland, Fla., companies started distancing themselves from the NRA, DICK'S Sporting Goods pledged to stop selling "assault rifles," TV networks paused their programing for the national school walk-out, and tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft even changed their pistol emojis to look less like real firearms. Even outside of cultural-political moments like this, companies have started shooting for political themes in advertising, and more often than not, they skew left.

The advent of social media and the aging of millennials might give Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) an odd power over corporate branding. Even so, praising companies for their "social responsibility" would be naive — such political moves are actually an advertising tactic.

Even Alex Shephard at the lefty magazine The New Republic realized that "it would be a mistake to see these moves as genuine attempts to address American society’s many ills, let alone as adequate substitutes for government action. It is more accurate to see them as high-wire acts in ad-hoc branding—attempts to stay above the popular disgust that has swallowed up the government and just about every other major institution in America."

Two-thirds of consumers (66 percent) told the social media company Sprout Social in a poll last September that they want brands to take stands on social and political issues, and 58 percent said this should happen on social media.

Interestingly, while 66 percent of consumers said brands could not change their minds on issues, 39 percent said companies can make a concrete impact by announcing donations to specific causes. Another 37 percent said companies can have an impact by encouraging followers to attend an event or make a donation for a cause.

Unfortunately for conservatives, the Sprout Social poll found that it pays better for a brand to promote liberal causes. A whopping 78 percent of respondents who self-identified as liberal said they want "social responsibility" in branding, while only 52 percent of self-identified conservatives said the same. Also, 82 percent of liberals said they think brands are credible when taking a stand on social or political issues, while only 46 percent of conservatives said so.

If SJWs are yelling for companies to support their pet political projects, and will fawn over a company that does so, while conservatives are less rabid in their demands — and less trusting when a brand actually supports their causes — it stands to reason that it is in a company's best interest to support liberal causes, even if a majority of Americans might disagree.

Even worse for conservatives, companies expect more reward than risk for adopting political branding. If a brand takes a stand on an issue consumers agree on, 28 percent of them are likely to publicly praise that company. If the company champions a cause consumers disagree with, only 20 percent will publicly attack it.