Brand Strategy

Customers are researching brand stances and voting with their dollar ahead of the midterms

Public statements and donations are being considered as people decide where to shop.
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Grant Thomas

· 4 min read

When Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard announced earlier this month that he was giving 98% of the company to a nonprofit and a trust with future profit directed toward helping the environment and combating the climate crisis, the move seemed to resonate with many customers.

Despite questions of potential tax motives, some implied that they would spend more with the retailer in the near future in response to the news.

A recent report from Horizon Media found that in addition to addressing pricing concerns amid inflation, brands can “gain a significant amount of favor by contributing to solutions” people are most concerned about, including the climate crisis.

With costs up and midterms on the horizon, experts said people are thinking critically not just about which politicians should get their vote, but which brands should get their business—based on where they stand and how they spend their money.

Practice what you post

In the wake of the Dobbs decision in June, Mark Hanis, co-founder of Progressive Shopper, told us he saw a bump in downloads of the web extension—which identifies the political parties of politicians that brands have donated to based on FEC data—from about 13,000 to 20,000 users.

“When Texas started with its more regressive legislation, we saw a pretty big bump,” Hanis said, referencing SB 8, which passed a year ago. He said Progressive Shopper also saw an increase in downloads after the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and when Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year.

Progressive Shopper extension on

According to Hanis, it’s all part of people paying more attention to where companies are donating politically and how well it matches up with their public statements or internal policies.

In addition to identifying political donations by party, the extension also uses publicly available data to track brand stances on what it calls “serious issues.” When visiting Amazon, for example, one of the issues Progressive Shopper flags is “pinkwashing,” which it defines as being on the Human Rights Campaign’s list of best places to work for LGBTQ+ equality while also supporting anti-LGBTQ+ politicians, policies, and practices.

“We see this left arm-right arm discrepancy and I think consumers are demanding [change],” he said.

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At the end of the day, Hanis said Progressive Shopper’s goal is to make it easier to see if companies’ donations and actions line up with the more public, liberal stances they often take—something he said gets easier to track in an election year when donations go up.

Money, meet mouth

According to a May study by business review platform Trustpilot, around half of consumers said it’s important for brands to take a stance on “ethical, sustainable, or political questions.”. And while 70% of marketers agreed that taking an ethical stance is “increasingly important,” many brands don’t execute due to reasons like lack of know-how or fear of commercial impact, according to the study.

“This is not a nice-to-have. This is not a warm and fuzzy approach. This is a customer need that they will need to answer for,” Dana Bodine, VP of marketing at Trustpilot, told us.

While one might assume it’s younger consumers driving demand for corporate stances, Ericka McCoy, CMO at consumer data platform Resonate, told us it cuts across generational lines. She said deciding which companies to support can be as much of a statement as posting on social media or going to a protest.

“That is something that a modern CMO now needs to think about, which they never would have really had to think about 10 years ago,” McCoy said.

According to a recent study from Resonate, the number of consumers who are less likely to purchase from pro-life brands and more likely to purchase from pro-choice brands is on the rise (though Resonate didn’t ask respondents how they qualify a brand as “pro-life” or “pro-choice.”) The latest data showed that 33.4% of respondents were more likely to purchase brands they saw as pro-choice and 36% were less likely to purchase from those they saw as pro-life.

“All of our lives are kind of compressing into, ‘Where do I shop? How do I vote? What do I say on social media? Who do I work for?’ It all relates to these values,” McCoy said.

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