Back in January, we found that Trump’s tweets dampen social sentiment toward brands, even when they’re nice. At the time, we looked at the 6 brands that had been mentioned by the US President on social media and found that, in all instances, regardless of if Trump was complimentary or disparaging, brand engagement increased but sentiment declined. The takeaway for brands was to keep a distance from all things political unless they just want to get a lot of attention and/or are ok with alienating a large percentage of the population.

Here we are nearly a year later and the political discourse has only gotten more polarizing. What impact has this had on brand sentiment? Well, it looks like more of the same with one exception.

Last week, President Trump announced a plan to cut the size of 2 national monuments. In response, 3 outdoor retail brands protested publicly withdramatic messaging on their homepages and social media.

Sure enough, all 3 brands saw social engagement lift the following day but 2 of them saw sentiment go down which means that more negative comments were made than before the company took a stand. REI is the only brand that emerged with more positive sentiment and it was a scant 8% lift.

That said, it’s likely sentiment among those most likely to buy from these brands only improved as the acts of protest align with shared values. And, who knows, if the brands had not said anything maybe they would have lost favor among their hard-core customers. So it’s certainly not an easy decision for a brand manager to make.

At the end of the day, brands have to know their audiences well enough to know if the trade-off is worth it. Thankfully, we have more data than ever before to help us assess the inputs and measure the outcomes.

My rule of thumb: When in doubt, silence is Goldman, er, golden.

Now, enjoy a quiet moment with the rest of 4C’s Insights. And Happy Hanukkah to all those celebrating.

Read the rest of 4C’s Insights Volume 86 here.

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