New Research from Duke and Harvard Supports Benefit of CEOs Standing for Faith Driven Consumers


May 11, 2016 8:16 AM

A compelling new study conducted by researchers at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and Harvard Business School adds data indicating that CEOs can not only build brand affinity with a defined customer segment but can also increase their company’s bottom line by speaking out on issues unrelated to their core business but that personally matter to those consumers.

Researchers found that consumers’ intention to purchase a brand’s products increases when they hear about the CEO making a public statement in support of a position with which the consumers agree. The results “suggest that CEO activism can serve as a signal, letting consumers know where a company leader stands… potentially galvanizing support and generating goodwill for the company, especially among those who already support the CEO’s stance.” Previous research found that “consumers are more likely to buy products and services from firms whose political and social stances they support.”

Duke Professor Aaron Chatterji summarized his findings, “When CEOs make social statements, their potential consumers are paying attention. People who agree with them already might develop more affinity toward the company, and that's important when brands are trying to establish personal relationships with customers… The point of our research is that you might be more excited about brands that are more in line with your values.” Similarly, a 2015 GFK global study found that 63% of consumers only buy products and services that appeal to their beliefs, values or ideals.

The study recognizes that “CEO activists may have considerably more influence on some audiences than others and that CEO activism is a double-edged sword that can promote or erode purchasing intent, depending on the audience.” But “although CEO activism can have costs as well as benefits, [the] results suggest that under some conditions the benefits can outweigh the costs.”

Our organization believes that CEO activism supportive of Faith Driven Consumers—Christians who proactively live their faith in the marketplace and workplace—need not have a downside. Faith Driven Consumers do not seek to be welcomed, engaged and celebrated at the exclusion of or to a greater degree than any other community in America’s colorful tapestry of diversity. We believe in a both/and rather than an either/or world. 

CEOs have an opportunity to signal Faith Driven Consumers that they too are welcome, galvanizing affinity for the brand among the rapidly emerging and economically powerful FDC market segment of 41 million people who spend $2 trillion annually. According to American Insights, nearly nine in ten Faith Driven Consumers (86%) are more likely to do business with a brand that welcomes them and acknowledges their values equal to other groups and their values. Seventy percent actively seek brands and businesses that acknowledge, welcome and provide for them as Christians.

Faith Driven Consumers simply ask brands to “Add us in” – to acknowledge, welcome and include them and their Christian values equally with other groups and their values. To allow 41 million employees and consumers an equal seat at the table in the workplace and marketplace. And to realize the business benefit of universal equality and inclusion.