3 Times Companies Took a Stance on Hot-Button Issues
The line between business and politics has never been more blurry. More than ever before, today’s consumers want to see that the companies vying for their dollars share the same politics as their own – and that means knowing where those companies stand on hot-button political issues.
The upshot: If you thought your company could avoid taking a public stance on issues like voting rights, vaccine mandates, and the new abortion law in Texas, you might be in for a rude awakening.
But taking a public stance can be fraught with risks and challenges. It’s crucial for strategy leaders at major companies to have a keen understanding of consumer needs, preferences, and values, before weighing in. These things are often expressed in conversations that play out online, which means that success for companies hinges on their ability to thoroughly analyze the online narrative landscape. Here are three examples of companies taking a stand on hot-button political issues, and the mixed results they faced.
1. Uber and Lyft steer the conversation toward the abortion law in Texas
In the summer of 2021, Texas passed its divisive law strictly limiting abortions in the state. The law included a provision allowing ordinary citizens to sue people suspected of enabling an abortion in violation of the law – including Lyft and Uber drivers suspected of driving pregnant people to abortion clinics.
In response, Lyft and Uber announced they would pay their drivers’ potential legal fees if they’re sued under the law. Discussion of the companies’ announcements quickly spiked on social media. On Twitter, during the week of September 1 – 8, there were:
- 52,756 mentions of “Uber” in conjunction with “abortion” or “SB8”
- 51,261 mentions of “Lyft” in conjunction with “abortion” or “SB8”
In the wake of this spike, both companies saw a bump in their stock price, which rose, on average, 3.2% relative to the price before they announced their support for drivers. But the results weren’t all positive: The companies also faced criticism after declining to join others in signing a pledge of opposition to the law.
2. L’Oreal Paris is accused of putting makeup on their past
During the Black Lives Matter protests in the spring of 2020, L’Oreal Paris created an Instagram post expressing their support for the movement. Model Munroe Bergdorf then posted that the company had parted ways with her in 2017 after she spoke out about racism. In her post, she urged others online that “If you care about me or #blacklivesmatter, don’t let @lorealparis get away with this.”
The post received over 109,000 likes. Discussion of “L’Oreal Paris” and keywords related to the model Munroe Bergdorf accumulated 1,791 mentions on Twitter between June 1 and June 9, 2020. The brand publicly apologized for the way the situation was handled and hired Bergdorf onto the company’s UK Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board.
3. On voting rights, Major League Baseball both hits…and misses
In April, Major League Baseball announced it was pulling the All Star Game from Atlanta and relocating it to Denver in protest of Georgia’s new voting law, the Election Integrity Act. In explaining the move, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”
In the online narrative landscape, reactions to the move were mixed. Sources that were critical of the decision and sources that were supportive of it each shared the announcement tens of thousands of times. On Twitter, there were:
- 46,849 mentions of #BoycottMLB
- 42,338 mentions of #VoterSuppression
- 25,154 Twitter mentions of #VotingRights
These cases exemplify several key truths about today’s combustible and polarized media environment, in which companies face unprecedented pressure to weigh in on hot-button political issues:
- In today’s polarized culture, one action from a company can provoke varying reactions from consumers.
- Taking a stance on an issue does not guarantee a favorable response – results will often be mixed.
- More than just taking a stance, consumers want companies to demonstrate authenticity – and follow-through – in whatever action they take.