Beyond the success, or otherwise, of these campaigns it is interesting to understand why brands have now begun to take a stand.
An initial reason seems to be linked to the social role that consumers attribute to private companies: more and more people expect that social change must come from them rather than from public institutions. 88% of Americans think that companies actually have the power to produce social change (SONAR, 2016). This trust in companies, which is often opposed to the scarce accountability of public institutions, is linked to the perception of being able to influence them with our purchasing behavior. In fact, another survey reports a striking fact: in 2017 50% of Americans participated in at least one boycott during the year, with a 20% increase compared to 2016 (K. Endres, C. Panagopoulos, 2017). This change in perception of the social role of brands, contrary to the classical belief that ethics and business go in opposite directions, has led some economists such as Chris Ladd to talk about Social Capitalism: an economic system in which people consider purchasing not as an exchange of goods but as a vote. The field of competition between the brands seems to have extended to politics, leading companies to have a position on social issues in such a way as to “be voted for”.
Another reason is related to the political context itself, which sees brands forced to take a stand in the face of radical or extremely divisive government policies, which often also directly impact the companies’ businesses, as has happened for the “Muslim Ban” wanted by Donald Trump. In January 2017, the ban on citizens entering the US from the 7 nations with an Arab majority saw a harsh public reaction from the tech giants of Silicon Valley who have the best brains from all over the world among their workforce. Google, Facebook, Apple, Uber, Microsoft, Netflix and many others have condemned the provision, referring not only to the negative consequences for the development of their companies but also to the fundamental principles of inclusion and openness that have made the US the power that it is today.