Taking a Stand: Consumer Responses When Companies Get (or Don’t Get) Political

52 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2016 Last revised: 5 Jul 2019

See all articles by Daniel Korschun

Daniel Korschun

Drexel University, LeBow College of Business

Hoori Rafieian

Drexel University

Anubhav Aggarwal

Drexel University

Scott D. Swain

Clemson University

Date Written: July 3, 2019

Abstract

Companies have reflexively abstained from taking public stands on controversial political issues such as the death penalty, abortion, or immigration. In recent years, however, some companies have eschewed this traditional wisdom, fueling a debate over whether consumers prefer companies to abstain or take such political stands. Results from a field experiment and two controlled experiments indicate that consumer responses depend upon how the company describes its relationship to its external environment. For a company that claims to adapt to its environment in pursuit of performance (market-driven intended image), consumers prefer abstention over taking a stand. In contrast, for companies who claim to stay true to a set of internally held values (values-driven intended image), consumers find political abstention to be hypocritical, and purchase less. Extending theory on corporate hypocrisy, we find that perceptions of hypocrisy become stronger for a values-driven company that is unconstrained in its ability to take a stand (high agency). Taken together, the studies confirm the widely-held notion that taking a political stand can be risky, but reveal that for some companies (i.e., values-driven), abstaining from a political stand can also present substantial risk.

Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility, Political Activism, Political Marketing, Brand, Consumer, Field Experiment

Suggested Citation

Korschun, Daniel and Rafieian, Hoori and Aggarwal, Anubhav and Swain, Scott D., Taking a Stand: Consumer Responses When Companies Get (or Don’t Get) Political (July 3, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2806476 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2806476

Daniel Korschun (Contact Author)

Drexel University, LeBow College of Business ( email )

3141 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-895-1998 (Phone)

Hoori Rafieian

Drexel University ( email )

3141 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Anubhav Aggarwal

Drexel University ( email )

3141 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Scott D. Swain

Clemson University ( email )

Clemson, SC 29631
United States

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