Mike Proulx, Vice President, Research Director and Dipanjan Chatterjee, Vice President, Principal Analyst
The murder of George Floyd, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and other seismic social and political events have “put brands on notice,” says VP, Research Director Mike Proulx. As pressure to respond has mounted, many companies find themselves in unchartered territory. On this week’s podcast episode, Proulx and Vice President, Principal Analyst Dipanjan Chatterjee talk about the factors that brands should consider when making these key decisions.
The broader values that companies have traditionally espoused — integrity, collaboration, and respect — don’t equip them for the dilemmas they face in today’s environment, Chatterjee explains. “You’re not going to be able to dig into the value set of a Fortune 500 company and come up with ready answers for the positions they should take on abortion, on gender, and so on and so forth,” he says. Instead, pressures to weigh in on social and political issues are forcing companies to consider anew the role they play in society, and what role they should play.
How should companies decide when speaking out makes sense? Part of the answer relates to proximity, says Proulx — meaning, how close a brand is to a particular issue and where its values and the issue intersect (think Patagonia and the environment). Physical proximity also matters, as companies may be expected to speak out on issues impacting where they operate (think companies with locations in Russia or Ukraine).
Consumers, of course, hold great sway in companies’ decisions on when to take a stand. Yet often, employees are the greatest source of pressure, and they’re critical in companies’ calculations. “If you make promises you don’t live up to, [employees] will know right away,” says Chatterjee. While the “great resignation” has given employees greater leverage, their expectations of their company’s behavior are here to stay, he adds.
Later in the episode, Proulx and Chatterjee share additional insights on how brands can formulate a strategy for confronting societal issues and offer a preview of one of Forrester’s 2023 predictions. Tune in to the full episode to hear more.