Why controversies might be good for brands—study

Consumers care about the positions company leaders take on the big issues of the day, but the fallout from taking a controversial stand usually blows over, a new study found.

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There was Chick-fil-A’s flap over the COO’s anti-gay marriage statements last summer. Starbucks, meanwhile, has publicly supported gay marriage. Hobby Lobby has chosen not to offer its employees contraception coverage. The list goes on.

Though PR people certainly remember those incidents, most in the public forget them soon after they happen, according to a report from marketing consulting firm WrightIMC. It found that, largely, brands that stick to their positions may face an initial dip in sales in the month or so after a controversy, but soon afterward, the increased attention the stance brought the brand is actually beneficial.

“Because a brand takes a stand, they get attention,” says Tony Wright, founder and CEO of WrightIMC. “You can’t buy that kind of press.”

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