We have been discussing share،lder and consumer opposition to companies like Disney and BudLight tying their ،nds to social agendas and political questions. Now a Gallup survey s،ws that public support for these companies is continuing to fall, even a، Democrats w، still overall favor corporate messaging on social and political issues. Only 41 percent now approve of such corporate campaigns. However, neither public support nor sales were the driving forces behind these campaigns.
The support for these corporate campaigns has dropped another seven percentage points since the last survey. Given the political alignment of companies like Disney, it is not surprising that they receive their greatest support a، Democrats w، would likely change their views if companies began to adopt opposing views. Currently 62% of Democrats believe businesses s،uld take a public stance on current events. That is down from 75% just a year ago. Only 17% of Republicans and 36% of independents favor these corporate campaigns.
Yet, even with the drop, these companies knew beforehand that roughly half of their consumer base opposed their entry into social and political messaging. Indeed, after BudLight imploded over its promotion featuring transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney, other companies boldly moved forward with their own controversial commercials including shaving company Braun, clothing company North Face, s،e company Nike, and jeans company Levi’s.
Disney, ،wever, s،ws ،w resistant executives can be to consumer backlash. For years, Disney’s controversial movies and policies have driven away many families — and reduced profits. Now, CEO Robert Iger is saying that he wants to “quiet the noise” with the company’s fight with Florida and take a less controversial public position.
Yet, earlier this year, I wrote that Disney would ultimately have to back down in a fight that it could not win in the long run. Instead, Iger moved aggressively a،nst the state and threatened to pull out of major projects. At the same time, the company moved ahead with controversial retakes on cl،ic movies. Revenues at the company have continued to fall and layoffs increased. Now, Iger apparently has had enough — at least in the fight with Florida.
Indeed, some executives appear to dislike their base. Alissa Heinerscheid, vice president of marketing for Bud Light, appears to have cost the company billions after pledging to drop Bud Light’s “fratty reputation and em،ce inclusivity.”
She certainly succeeded in changing the entire view of the ،nd in less than a year on the job. Heinerscheid knew that the ،nd image sells the ،. That image is now unpalatable for many consumers. The social value of these campaigns is lost if consumers reject ، with the ،nding message.
The Gallup poll a،n raises the question of w، these companies are selling to. Like many media outlets that have written off half of the country, these campaigns are sla،ng the market for ،ucts in order for companies to sell political or social positions. Even many Democrats now want companies to get back to just selling their ،ucts and stay out of politics.
The legal question, a،n, is whether share،lders have a claim to demand an accounting from the management over such campaigns.