ICYMI, consumers expect brands to take a position on controversial social and cultural issues—but how are they responding to these “brand stands” in measureable ways? New research from consumer insights firm Toluna and content analysis provider Unmetric reveals interesting insights into how consumers react when brands weigh in on social or political topics—and measures the impact of past branded content around such issues.

Toluna and Unmetric decided to partner for this comprehensive research in order to examine and compare instances of both self-reported beliefs and behavioral intent and the observed behavior of general consumers on social media. While the consumers that responded to the survey were not necessarily the same consumers represented in the social media analysis, the goal was to identify any significant patterns or similarities across the qualitative and quantitative data.

“The world is currently littered with dozens of issues affecting lives all across the globe. In the age of social media, it’s common to see celebrities putting their two cents worth in and being vocal about what they believe and stand for,” Unmetric said in a blog post. “Brands, on the other hand, have a lot to lose out on and have always been unsure of how to tread these rocky waters. Being vocal about issues—no matter how controversial they are—has always been enticing with the value proposition of winning over the hearts and minds of their fan base. But the repercussions on such sensitive issues could be massive.”

Key findings from Unmetric’s 2018 Data Analysis on Brands’ Social Media Campaigns:

  • Nike added 30 times more Twitter followers on the day the ‘Colin K’ ad campaign debuted compared to its daily average and saw 312 times more @-mentions by users on Twitter.
  • Patagonia added 19 times more fans on Facebook on the day it debuted ‘The President Stole Your Land’ campaign compared to its daily average. On Facebook, the 8,200 people that commented on Patagonia’s post spoke most frequently about “Obama”, “Trump”, “money” and “business”.
  • Airbnb saw 17 times more @-mentions by users on Twitter on the day the ‘We Accept’ ad campaign debuted compared to its daily average and the post was shared 438 more times than its average. On Facebook, the 9,770 people that commented on the post had good things to say, with words like “beautiful”, “love”, “amen” and “acceptance” among the most used in the comments.
  • The research also uncovered insights into consumers’ inclination to boycott, with 45 percent saying they are currently boycotting a brand that took a stance on controversial issues that ran counter to their beliefs.

Key findings from Toluna’s 2018 Survey on Brands Taking a Stand:

  • 33 percent said they would actively buy more goods or services from a brand they already purchase from if that brand took a stance on a controversial political/social issue that aligned with their beliefs
  • 26 percent said they would be willing to pay a higher price for a product that aligns with their beliefs versus an alternative less expensive brand
  • 22 percent said they would get rid of a brand’s products that they already own if that brand took a stance on a controversial political/social issue counter to their beliefs

“Brand stands” drive positive social engagement and purchase intent for brands

Unmetric used its Analyze platform to examine the impact of previous campaigns where brands took a stance on a controversial political or social issue. Unmetric evaluated user engagement and metrics before and after the brands posted content to their social channels. The brand content analyzed came from: Nike, Patagonia, Airbnb, PayPal, Ben & Jerry’s, and YoPlait.

Toluna surveyed 1,000 people in the US between the ages of 18 and 55+ to gauge opinions on brands taking a stance on controversial political and social issues. The survey collected insights on purchase intent and consumers’ behavior on social media when brands take a stance on these issues.

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