Companies that discuss President Donald Trump – either positively or negatively – are far more likely to get backlash for their brands than find support from customers.
Criticizing the president leads 56 percent of Trump voters to have a much less favorable view of a company's brand while just 32 percent of Clinton voters to have a much more favorable view, according to Morning Consult, a market research company.
The study found that just 30 percent of people will have a more favorable impression of a company if it issues a positive statement about Trump, while 32 percent will have a more favorable impression if it issues a negative statement. Thus, the researchers concluded that "no matter what you say about Trump, roughly 70 percent of the country will be upset or won't care."
"For every person you're making happy, there are almost twice as many who are unhappy," the researchers wrote. "What to do with Trump? It's best not to mention him."
Source: "CSR and Political Activism in the Trump Era," Morning Consult.
To be sure, many companies find themselves trapped between two opposing consumer demands: While some consumers want corporate America to offer full-throated opinions on politicized issues (e.g., gun control, kneeling during the national anthem, etc.), most consumers don't like when companies address issues tied to Trump.
Morning Consult isolated the most and least controversial political stances a brand can take, ranging from support for civil rights and the rights of racial minorities in America (least controversial) to support for stricter policies preventing abortion and the campaigns of a Republican lawmakers (most controversial).
Axios first reported the Morning Consult findings.
Some companies have explicitly highlighted actions taken by the Trump administration in quarterly earnings updates, ranging from biotechnology and pharmaceutical giants concerned about pricing to industrial and consumer companies criticizing the White House's new tariffs.
But most have avoided calling Trump out by name directly.
Eli Lilly (LLY)
"You also saw the administration move on putting a task force together related to addressing off-patent brands who take super inflationary price increases. In the absence of intellectual property this is really a regulatory failure, from our perspective. The administration's talking about importation. We think that's the wrong road to go down but rather to fix the regulatory system to begin with. Nonetheless, clearly, that is a hot-button issue, and we agree it should be solved." — David Ricks, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
"We've been working with and talking to the administration and our congressional delegations to ensure we're communicating just how terrible an impact ongoing tariff or trade war would be. Thus far, we've only seen non-material changes to the tariff schemes of other countries that don't really impact our business. Our toy business has not been part of the 303 designation that is currently been put in place, but we continue to monitor the situation and we continue to talk and firmly believe in a free trade environment as the best course for our company and for the industry." — Brian Goldner, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Hasbro
"Since mid-May, a number of elements in the macro environment worsened significantly. In addition to continued raw material inflation, we experienced a temporary, but significant decline in U.S. industry demands, headwinds related to U.S. tariffs as well as the Brazilian trucker strike and currency fluctuations in Russia and Latin America. While these macro challenges impacted our results negatively, the actions we put in place over the past few quarters, including cost-based price increases and targeted cost reduction throughout the world, enabled us to largely offset these challenges." — Marc Bitzer, Chief Executive Officer