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CEO activism: be very careful

Beware of people claiming customers respond well to companies that take stances on social issues. There’s a US study by Weber Shandwick doing the rounds.

A quick look at the numbers doesn’t back up the claim that we’re witnessing the “dawn of the activist CEO”.

Here it is in a nutshell:

  1. More than 80% of the public believe that taking a social stand is primarily for marketing reasons. This is the kicker. No matter how sincere you are, or how much they agree with your position, the public think you’re just doing it for attention.

  2. An average 30% of the public say CEOs should speak up on issues important to society or which are hotly debated. We guess that these people assume that the CEOs will agree with their position.

  3. Only 40% of people who agree with a company position on social issues say they are more likely to buy from them. In fact, people are more likely NOT to buy from a company when they disagree with the position on a social issue.

So, at the moment, there’s no customer or business-based reason for a company to take stances on hot social issues.

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