Interview with a scholar: Courtney Peters from Samford University’s Brock School of Business

February 2, 2023

Using RavenPack News Analytics data, Courtney, assistant professor of marketing, analyzed the impact of corporate socio political activism on consumer-based brand equity.

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Courtney’s paper “Your Reputation Proceeds You: The Impact of Corporate Sociopolitical Activism on Consumer-Based Brand Equity '' was co-written with marketing professors from The University of Memphis and DePaul University. Recently, their work was recognized as the “Best in Track'' paper in the marketing ethics and corporate social responsibility category by the Society for Marketing Advances (SMA).

We interviewed Courtney about the key findings of the research and how she leveraged RavenPack data in her academic work.

Courtney Peters
Courtney Peters

Assistant Professor of Marketing

Samford University’s Brock School of Business

Because of the comprehensive coverage that RavenPack provides, we were able to match the companies within our event dataset with YouGov ratings to measure consumer brand evaluations.

Your paper looks into the impact of corporate socio political activism (CSA) on consumer-based brand equity (CBBE). Can you explain what corporate socio political activism is and why you choose this topic?

Corporate sociopolitical activism, according to Bhagwat, is “a firm’s public demonstration (statements and/or actions) of support for or opposition to one side of a partisan sociopolitical issue”. In other words, CSA occurs when organizations speak or act in support of or against a divisive social or political issue such as LGBTQIA+ rights, abortion, climate change, gun control, etc. CSA events are typically highly controversial among stakeholders and highly publicized.

We chose this topic because it is a timely and relevant subject that needs to be further understood. In today’s society, organizations are often expected to make social and political stands and these stands have important impacts on the myriad of organizational stakeholders. Prior academic literature has begun to tease out the impact of these stances; yet, there are many questions that still need to be answered.

What are the main conclusions of the paper? What should corporate leaders take away from it?

This research considers the impact of corporate sociopolitical activism on consumer brand evaluations. Specifically, we consider how an organization’s reputation for corporate social responsibility (CSR) impacts brand evaluations in the aftermath of a CSA related announcement. Additionally, we consider the impacts of specific brand associations (i.e., brand logos and brand names) on these brand evaluations.

We find that building a compelling CSR reputation helps mitigate the negative effects of participating in more polarizing stances. Thus, when organizations have a strong reputation for CSR, corporate leaders are better equipped to take stances on more polarizing topics. Additionally, we find that some brands, based on their brand personality as it relates to their brand logo, may be better situated to express more polarizing viewpoints. For example, consumer evaluations are more positive for companies that participate in CSA when their brand logos are more asymmetric and dynamic.

In your research, you collected examples of corporate sociopolitical activism events using RavenPack News Analytics from 2007 to 2020 - can you tell us more about how you leveraged the data and how that might be helpful for other researchers as well?

We used RavenPack News Analytics and search terms established in prior literature by authors like Bhagwat or Warren & Sorescu, to build the corpus of CSA events. RavenPack returned a robust body of potential events that we screened to ensure they met the definition of CSA. The RavenPack data gave us our starting point for building out our research for this study. RavenPack’s comprehensive coverage of news sources and provided measures and categorizations can fuel innovative research across a variety of topics.

Were there specific aspects of the data that helped you produce innovative research?

RavenPack returns an easy-to-use spreadsheet where researchers can determine the information most relevant to their research topic. For us, the headlines and event text categories helped us identify events related to our topic. We also utilized many of the features provided by RavenPack to ensure that our spreadsheet had the most applicable news items to our search. Because of the comprehensive coverage that RavenPack provides, we were able to match the companies within our event dataset with YouGov ratings to measure consumer brand evaluations; thus, allowing us to see the impacts of CSA events on consumer brand evaluations in the context of CSR and specific brand associations.

What would be a practical application of your research for companies?

The take-home for companies is that consumer response to organizations who take social and political stands can be positive. Companies need to consider their existing reputation for CSR and how characteristics associated with their brand personality will impact consumer responses.

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