Gun Control:
The Brand Impact

Part 1 of a special 3 part series

Gun Control:
The Brand Impact

It’s been over two weeks since the terrible tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School occurred. Two weeks and still the effects of something like this linger. On the survivors and those left behind and on this country as a whole. While it’s true school shootings unfortunately feel like a more common occurrence these days, that doesn’t negate the pain and confusion we collectively feel when something like this transpires.

Amidst the sorrow we all feel, we also always seem to fall into the debate of what to do to try and prevent something like this from happening again. At the core of this nationwide conversation is the issue of gun control. Both sides of the argument – those for more gun control and those against more gun control – continue to present their sides and their solutions to what feels at times like a real epidemic.

As you may recall from my last post , gun control was one of the issues I explored in my Invoke Live session on social issues. However, while the last post touched on some of the specifics of gun control, I figured this might be a good time to dig back into the data to see if anything came to light that might be interesting or help further the conversation.

To reiterate, this research was executed a month before the shooting in Parkland so you can imagine these results would probably look a lot different if we ran the study today. But this is the world we live in – the national discussion feels like it changes week to week. I still think it may be worthwhile to understand what people were feeling before this tragedy may have shifted priorities.

There is A LOT to say here, so I am going to be breaking my findings into a few separate posts over the next few weeks.

Taking a look at the data

One of the main questions I was looking to answer when I ran this session was centered on how brands should or should not interact with social issues. Gun control emerged as an issue that brands should potentially steer clear of, with only 41% of total consumers saying they would like if a brand associated with gun control, thus making it the least appealing social issue when it comes to brand association.

How Would You Feel About a Brand Associating with Gun Control – Total (n=97)

And yet in the wake of this school shooting, we have seen numerous brands take action. Looking at this article in the Washington Post, it’s clear a number of companies have chosen to enter the gun control conversation. Companies such as Delta, Hertz, and MetLife have ended discount programs aimed at NRA members and other companies, such as Dick’s and WalMart, have stopped selling specific guns and/or raised the minimum age to buy. REI took this even a step further by stopping orders of any products made by Vista Outdoors, a company that manufactures shooting products and outdoor goods.

Based on the fact that gun control was the least appealing issue for brands to tackle, this may seem like a foolish move to some on the parts of these companies. However, my initial analysis was only to understand how appealing this may be to consumers. It should also be noted that only 13% would find it unappealing, leaving nearly half of consumers saying this association would have no effect on appeal.

This research was also done 2 months ago. As priorities shift and the national conversation changes around guns, these numbers could look wildly different today and a shift away from assault weapons and the NRA could be working in the favor of these brands at this moment.

And perhaps some of these brands made decisions of the heart, rather than the head. Maybe their decision to enter the gun control discussion was based more on emotion than the bottom line. And they don’t care how this impacts sales or visits. Or, just as likely, these brands and companies may have felt forced (by their customers or stakeholders, for example) to take such action and felt they had to do it.

Regardless of what is happening now, it will be something to watch as time marches on. One question I also asked in this session explored whether consumers have actually changed behavior in the past because of a brand’s association with a specific social issue. While only 11% have actually changed behavior because of a brand’s association with gun control, the specifics of these changes are the more interesting part. No consumer that has changed their behavior says they have done so because a brand has come out against more gun control. All of those that noted a change stopped patronizing specific brands because they saw them as, essentially, against guns or used a brand because they are aligned more strongly with the rights of gun owners. Here are some of the quotes:

“Winchester and the NRA support our gun rights so I am a customer and support of the club and company.” (Male, Millennial, Republican)

“There have been several restaurants, whom I choose not to name here, that have come out in favor of [increased gun control], we no longer frequent those restaurants.  AARP is another.  We both used to belong to AARP, no longer.” (Female, Boomer, Democrat)

And this aligns with some of the other data we saw in the session. 19% of those that are against more gun control say they would be less likely to use a brand if they came out in support of gun control. For comparison’s sake, on the other side, only 5% of those in favor of increased gun control would be less likely to use a brand if they came out in support of opposing views.
During the next iteration of this research, I will be keeping a close eye on the answer to this question given the large-scale action currently being taken by brands and retailers. It will be very interesting to see if behaviors change further based on the actions taken by brands, for better or for worse.
For a deeper look at the results of this study click HERE for the full Takeaways report.

Wayne Goodreau About the author

Wayne Goodreau has been in the market research industry since the year 2000, working on both the vendor and client side across a number of qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Joining Invoke in 2011 and currently employed as Research Director, Wayne has since worked with a number of Invoke’s clients helping them better understand their consumers and customers through the power of large-scale real-time decision making.

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