Vendela Angerlöv (Vänster) och Andrea Jernberg (Höger) vid Handelshögskolan i Stockholm vann Ohlininstitutets Uppsatspris för 2022. Uppsatsen handlar om fenomenet företagsaktivism. Uppsatsen kan läsas genom att följa denna länk.
Vi ställde några frågor till dem om vilka slutsatser de dragit under arbetet. Eftersom en av dem är från USA och deras gemensamma arbetsspråk är engelska väljer vi att publicera intervjun på engelska.
Would you like to tell us briefly about your subject? What is corporate activism?
We think of corporate activism as when companies take a stand on social and political issues. For instance, many companies in the U.S. began speaking out during the Black Lives Matter movement, and it has become very common for companies to express support for and give visibility to the LGBTQ+ community, particularly during Pride month.
As we can see in the news, issues such as these have varying levels of support and opinions are often split along political lines. Because of this there is a certain amount of risk when participating in corporate activism, we sought to understand and concretize the benefits companies gain from participating in corporate activism.
Why did you choose to write about this?
One of the reasons we chose to write about corporate activism in marketing was because it was a very relevant topic at the time, and we found that there was a gap in research. Furthermore, we were extremely interested in the political divide in the U.S. and how this affects responses to marketing communications. When refining the idea for our thesis, there were a host of occurrences of corporate activism in the news, and we wanted to learn more!
One of your conclusions is that this type of activism seems to be particularly important for luxury goods. Why is it like that?
As we came to learn during our research, customers are more sensitive to luxury brands because they are more involved due to the higher risk associated with a higher price tag. This means that they pay more attention to, and scrutinize, marketing communications of luxury brands. In our study, we found that if a luxury brand supports a cause congruent to their image, it can lead to a host of beneficial effects such as more positive attitudes for the brand and cause, and research indicates this is likely because of the greater consumer involvement with advertisements and communications from luxury brands compared to mainstream brands.
What skills do companies need to manage the balance involved in taking a political stance? What are the risks involved in taking a stand?
What became clear in our research is that “knowing your customer” is more important than ever before. If companies use their insights to determine their customers’ political leanings, companies can adapt their marketing and participate in corporate activism in a manner suitable to their customers. As we see often in U.S. news, companies often face harsh backlash on social media and threats of boycotts from customers that do not agree with a corporate activism campaign. A recent example from this month is when the beer company, Budlight, hired a transgender spokeswoman, Dylan Mulvaney, and conservatives have had strong negative reactions. Because of the political divide in the U.S., it’s unlikely that any company that participates in conversations about important social issues will resonate with all customers. However, if they ensure that they are choosing a cause that is congruent with the brands’ values and the values of their customers, they can minimize the risks and gain positive benefits in the process.