How Aflac, Astellas and Carnival Balance Social Action With Their Core Business Messages

Mar 21, 2018 12:40 PM ET
Jon Sullivan and a live Aflac duck. Mechanized ducks soon will comfort children with cancer. Photo courtesy of

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Not long ago, companies were counseled to stay out of politics and social causes; “stick to business and you won’t offend customers or potential customers,” was thought to be the best route.

Things have changed, partly owing to the millennial generation’s preference to buy from and work at companies that are responsible (see tables below). With millennials comprising 40% of the workforce by 2020, brands are correct to heed their voice.

Another part of this evolution owes its momentum to President Trump calling out companies on the stump or on Twitter, sometimes forcing them to engage in the political arena, a venue they avoided previously.

In just the last few weeks we’ve seen “brands taking stands” rise to a level unseen previously. With the ability of students trapped inside Stoneman Douglas H.S. in South Florida to provide real-time images of the carnage on social media, the issue of gun control has risen to the forefront of public consciousness. Recently Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart, Kroger, L.L. Bean, United and Delta Air Lines, among others,have taken a stand on guns, risking alienating large swaths of their customer base.

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