61% Of Aussies Want Corporate Australia To Stay Away From Social & Political Issues Leo Burnett Study Finds

61% Of Aussies Want Corporate Australia To Stay Away From Social & Political Issues Leo Burnett Study Finds

Advertising agency Leo Burnett Australia has released part one of ‘The Good Study 2024’, in partnership with UTS Business School and Zenith Australia. The study found that while Australians overwhelmingly agree it’s important for brands to do some form of good in the world, only 39% believe they should take a position on social and political issues.

Lead Image: The Good Study Launch Panel – Catherine King, Chief Strategy Officer at Leo Burnett Australia; Professor Carl Rhodes, Dean of UTS Business School; Azure Antoinette, DE&I thought leader and corporate advisor; and Adam Ballesty, previous Domino’s CMO and Diageo marketing and innovation director, and most recently head of the brand and marketing transformation project at Crown Resorts.

Reflecting this, half of Australians (50%) would boycott a brand over its position in current wars and conflicts. The Good Study was launched in 2022 to provide business leaders with new data on the topic of “brand good” as ESG continues to climb up the corporate agenda.

From brand activism to social impact, the potential for brands to positively change the world has dominated corporate discourse in recent years, reflecting evolving expectations that consumers have of businesses and brands.

However, the topic is increasingly mired with complexity and confusion, particularly given that 66% of Australians now believe our nation is polarised.

“The Good Study aims to offer data-driven direction and to foster ethically-minded debate that leaders can harness to pave a positive way forward. Reflecting on this, each edition tightens our understanding of this evolving topic. The first study broadened our lens to show that financial acts of equity and fairness resonate most with Australians. This year, our lens contracts to guide brands away from political matters unless it aligns with a company purpose. Business leaders need to know where their customers stand and be aware of any generational divides given our research shows they can be quite significant,” said Catherine King, chief strategy officer at Leo Burnett Australia.

King told B&T that the report had been downloaded hundreds of times by brand leaders and strategists in agencies across the country. “We know that there’s a really strong demand for this type of information”.

Adam Ballesty, a former Diageo and Domino’s CMO told B&T that brands that stand for something have always had greater longevity in the market. “So if I were to look at it from a brand’s point of view, I would say that there is a growing opportunity for brands to be confident with their tone of voice”.

Of course, there are risks when it comes to jumping on board causes if it’s not done correctly. “Being polarising as a brand is a good place to be if it’s real. But if they’re jumping on because it’s a trend and it’s not real to them or their brand, then they’re going to hear negative noise pretty quickly,” Ballesty said.

  • Good is now an expectation – 96% of Australians believe it’s important for brands to do some form of good in the world; and 57% of Australians try their best to avoid brands that are not doing good.
  • Generational divide – Boomers more likely to help others even if they have differing beliefs:
    • 81% of Boomers said they would help someone in need even if they strongly disagree with their
      point of view, compared to only 65% of Gen Z
    • 95% of Boomers believe all Australians deserved a fair go even if they had different political and
      religious beliefs, compared to 79% of Gen Z
    • Gen Z (42%) are more likely to actively support brands getting involved in conflicts and wars if they are aligned to their beliefs. This is compared to 20% of Boomers.
  • Australians believe our governments and the media are responsible for creating a more polarised nation – the Federal Government is held most accountable (60%), followed by the media (55%), then State Governments (49%).
  • This polarisation could explain the widespread increase in support for actions that unite us:
    • Efforts that create social togetherness 73% (+39% from 2022)
    • Actively stopping the poor treatment of marginalised communities 77% (+34% from 2022)
    • Supporting First Nations Australians 60% (+31% from 2022)
    • Investing in the local community 83% (+29% from 2022)
  • The biggest jumps in support from Australians went towards:
    • Providing sustainable fishing practices +51% (from 2022)
    • Defending women’s reproductive rights +40% (from 2022)
    • Enabling ways to reduce sexism +37% (from 2022)
    • Enabling ways to reduce racism +37% (from 2022)
  • Australia’s top 3 demonstrations of brand good are financially-related business behaviours:
    • 94% of Aussies want brands to pay employees and suppliers fairly
    • 92% of Aussies want businesses to provide stable and fair employment
    • 91% of Aussies want brands to pay the appropriate taxes in Australia

“Australians want to buy from good companies. Sadly, they also believe that big businesses are failing at this. Why? Because brands are focussing on the wrong issues. Australians believe that a good company is one that pays employees and suppliers fairly, offers stable employment and pays their fair share of tax. Companies that have the receipts to show that they do this have the real advantage. This report provides evidence-based intelligence to enable businesses to make the right decision when it comes to demands of brand activism, social impact and corporate purpose,” said Professor Carl Rhodes, Dean of UTS Business School, University of Technology Sydney.

Leo Burnett Australia’s Good Study 2024 was conducted in partnership with the UTS Business School and media agency Zenith Australia. The online quantitative and qualitative research was carried out via the Zenith Imagine Consumer Panel. The survey was conducted 10th-14th January 2024, with a sample size: n=1,033 and nationally representative of Australians aged 18+ based on age, gender and location. The qualitative component of the study was conducted on 4th-6th April 2024, with a nationally representative sample, n=500.

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