Corporate civic responsibility: no longer an afterthought
The relationship between corporate America and Washington fundamentally changed since the storming of the U.S. Capitol. Brand giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Marriott, and a long list of others suspended political donations, better known as PAC money, to lawmakers. Brands like Charles Schwab — who doled out roughly half a million to lawmakers last cycle — went as far as shutting down their PAC indefinitely, choosing to donate the balance to charities and historically Black colleges and universities.
So how did we get here? And more importantly, what can companies do to protect their reputation and lead with conviction at this unpaved intersection of brands and politics?
Before we dive into tools and tactics, let’s define the role of a corporate political action committee (PAC) and take a deeper look at what transpired that pushed brands to defend and/or rethink their role in the political process.
What happened in the last two weeks?
PACs are tools for corporations to donate money to political candidates that support their business objectives. Companies often take a balanced approach to their PACs, donating to politicians from both parties. This helps keep an open dialogue with a broad range of lawmakers on key issues and, since donations are public record, maintain a reputation of bipartisanship with company stakeholders.
Here’s where things got interesting: PAC donations have always been public record and a simple internet search would yield any PAC’s history. However, until recently, corporate political money largely operated in the shadows between K Street and Wall Street. In the last two weeks, PAC records leaked to Main Street as advocates took to social media to “call out” companies that donated to lawmakers who voted against the certification of the Electoral College results.
Since most companies donate to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and over 100 Republicans voted against certification, many of America’s biggest brands found themselves playing defense. Most took the moment as an opportunity to make public pledges to suspend political giving programs, foster civic responsibility, and promote democracy.
While the modern intersection of brands and politics is unprecedented, it’s been under construction for years. From viral movements like #MeToo to Black Lives Matter, to the recent events at the Capitol, brands have been tested on balancing profits and social politics in a market demanding they get it right.
Social media has been a game-changer, allowing brands to respond to political events so their customers know where they stand – just as a politician would with their constituents. Consumers can also just as easily now “call out” brands whose actions (or inactions) they support or condemn.
Why fresh data on where consumers stand is critical
The margin of error for brands in the current political landscape is a matter of inches. In such a divisive climate, how can brands be proactive in their civic responsibility without alienating at least 50% of the vote…when the goal is actually 100% of business?
Resonate is uniquely qualified to help our clients navigate this. Our AI-driven models allow clients to understand how customers and prospects are personally affected by political, social, and legislative events. Leveraging mass online behavioral data, our models update nightly, accounting for individual-level sentiment shifts in response to current events. Having access to fresh, relevant data allows brands to make informed decisions when engaging customers in civic action messaging.
Unlike traditional market research, Resonate clients can deeply understand their core audiences with over 13,000 attributes that go beyond basic voter or consumer data. Audiences can be segmented based on a broad combination of deep insights, allowing brands to tailor civic responsibility messaging to segments that are hungry for it, avoiding alienating customers who are apolitical or may share a different social perspective than the brand.
For example, customers can be segmented based on their individual values, motivations, political involvement levels, social positions, or their general feelings about brands taking political positions. This is the type of data that can put savvy brands on offense when it comes to civic responsibility, building unbreakable relationships with customers by connecting on the issues that matter most to them today.
Consumer Data in Action: A Look at Charles Schwab Customers
As previously stated, investment firm Charles Schwab perhaps took the most significant action in rethinking political involvement by shutting down their PAC in response to the events at the U.S. Capitol.
Here’s what our consumer intelligence models reveal about Charles Schwab customers’ political and social drivers.
When looking at an online audience of roughly 4M Charles Schwab customers, our models indicate that 38% of this audience are Democrats, 28% are Republicans, and 34% are Independents or identify with a third party.
Not surprising for investment firm customers, they are most likely to vote for political candidates based on their deficit/budget and government spending platforms.
When it comes to social responsibility, Charles Schwab customers are most concerned with environmental issues. Compared to the average voter, Charles Schwab customers are 75% more likely to support and advocate for the preservation of natural resources and 28% more likely to be concerned about climate change.
Other top social and charitable issues for this consumer audience include disaster and humanitarian relief, veteran care, and education.
Charles Schwab is just one example of the thousands of brands Resonate can provide this level of social responsibility insights for, helping companies emotionally and authentically connect with stakeholders on the issues that matter.
In today’s political climate, you must know what your customers expect from your brand.
Want to see our fresh, deep, and actionable data in action? Request a demo or give us a call at 855.855.4320.