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Companies can appeal to workers and consumers with liberal messagesND
The Economist, Thursday 24th January (Print Edition)
In an advertisement released in mid-January, Gillette, a razor company, achieved its 15 minutes of viral fame by taking a stand against ‘toxic masculinity’. Its gamble was that the free publicity that came from the controversy would offset any lost sales to men who were annoyed by the messaging of the ad. A similar bet worked for Nike last year when it used Colin Kaepernick – an American footballer who lost his job after kneeling during America’s national anthem in protest against police racism – in an advertising campaign. Some conservatives burned their Nike shoes in protest, but the company’s share price quickly rebounded and Nike’s sales rose as millennials showed they were more than happy to buy footwear that attracted the ire of President Donald Trump. “A younger generation of consumers is seeking products that are aligned with their causes,” says Renee Richardson Gosline of the mit Sloan school of management. Similarly, companies want to recruit workers from the same generation, which also means appealing to their values. “Young people don’t want to work for a company if it is seen as harmful to the environment or society,” says Jaideep Prabhu of Cambridge University’s Judge Business School. They want to be proud to say where they work. It is also worth remembering that firms have long been part of the political process through carefully co-ordinated, expensive lobbying campaigns. Last year, for example, eight firms including Alphabet (Google’s parent) and Amazon each spent over $10m lobbying America’s Congress, according to Opensecrets.org, a website. If firms can push a conservative, low-tax-and-regulation message, why not a socially progressive one?
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