“If everyone thought before they spoke the silence would be deafening,” said Polish author George Barzan. In the aftermath of the recent death of an African American male by a police officer and subsequent and numerous protests, a recent poll revealed that people of both white and black races felt brands should not remain silent.
Global data intelligence firm Global Consult polled nearly 2,000 American adults on May 31 and June 1, following an incident in which a Minneapolis police officer was captured and seen on video with a knee pressed to the neck of George Floyd, who died at the scene. While not everyone interviewed agreed on the position brands should take, more than half told Global Consult that they would view brands that refused to make public statements about the protests less favorably.
Three other findings stood out in the survey. One was the divisiveness among racial lines resulting from brand statements of support for protesters. Prominent among these brands’ messages were statements of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and systemic racial equality and an abhorrence of unwarranted police violence.
The second finding was the generational difference of opinion. 73% of Gen Z and millennials said they thought more favorably of brands that supported protesters on social media, compared to 39% of Gen X and Boomers.
And a surprising third finding was that a majority of respondents felt it was important for company leaders to associate the demonstrations with the death of George Floyd in their communications with employees. 68% felt that way. 64% felt the statement would generate more support if delivered by a spokesperson for the brand, while 52% favored the brand’s social media sites.
Morning Consult also asked several questions relating to what brands should say or do amidst the protests, and broke their findings out among the black and white respondents. 50% of white adults felt that brands should establish funds for small businesses affected by looting. 43% of black adults agreed.
43% of both white and black adults agreed that brands should donate to community cleanup. 39% of white adults felt that at-risk stores should be closed, a position supported by 29% of black adults. 36% of black adults said brands should donate to social justice causes, a position favored by 17% of white adults. Racial sensitivity training was favored by 39% of black adults and 25% of white adults.
In the areas of brands issuing statements of support for police and donating to police, white adults reported favoring at 13% and 9% respectively. This was in sharp contrast to the -23% and -19% responses from black adults.
Similar racial differences were visible on the matter of brands issuing statements of support for protesters and donating to get protesters out of jail. Black adults reported in favor at 28% and 23%, as opposed to -1% and -15% for white adults.
These latest findings are interesting when compared to an August 2019 Morning Consult survey on whether the public viewed brands as being political. It revealed an 11% drop over the same period a year earlier and concluded that a brand’s position on social issues gets lost in the proverbial crowd in what they characterized then as a politically polarized climate.
The stresses associated with coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and recent killings of more black people by police have not only amplified voices and attitudes among the public but will probably seriously alter the results of the next poll.