Updated: Feb 19, 2020
Gen Z and Millennials have come to expect their favorite corporations to take daring social stands—and any potential divisiveness of the stand itself is usually trumped by a company’s willingness to be completely open about it.
Chick-fil-A and Nike are two brands whose stances have stoked controversy, albeit on opposite ends of the political spectrum—and yet both are clear favorites for Gen Z. In Piper Jaffray’s recent bi-annual survey of teen brand popularity, Nike is by far the most popular Gen Z clothing brand, while Chick-fil-A is the most popular restaurant. Of course, both companies produce high quality products that put them at the top of their classes, but their divisive stances on lightning rod issues have not adversely affected those standings among today’s teenagers.
Why? Because both companies are unflinchingly very clear about the philosophies that shape their positions. Chick-fil-A’s “pro-family” stances may be perceived by some as discriminatory against LGBTQ people, but the booming company spells out its Christian values very plainly in its corporate purpose statement, saying its mission is “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.”
Nike, meanwhile, has seen sales actually increase since its embrace of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick—whose national anthem knee-taking protests against racial inequity, while considered unpatriotic by some, align with Nike's stated purpose “to inspire people to take action in their communities” and its commitment to “breaking down barriers.”
The lesson here is clear—in a world where corporate forthrightness has never been more essential, say what you stand for and back it up with action.