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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A new study from Morning Consult finds that brands discussing President Trump — whether in a positive or negative light — should expect backlash rather than positive responses.

Why it matters: Brands that stay true to their corporate values in messaging face less risk than those that react directly to being called out by the president or the president's statements.

According to the study, only 30% of people will have a more favorable view of a company if it issues a positive statement about Trump. At the same time, only 32% will have a more favorable impression if it issues a negative statement.

  • A negative statement about the president can be even worse. Most Trump voters (56%) to have a much less favorable view of a brand if it says something negative about the president, while only 32% of Clinton voters say they would have a much more favorable view.
  • Regardless of what a company says about the president, an overwhelming majority (70%) Americans will either disapprove or simply won’t care.

The big dilemma for brands is that they are are being pulled in two directions when it comes to political and issue messaging.

  • Consumers want companies to take a bigger stand on certain issues, like civil rights and racial equality.
  • But most consumers don't like when companies address issues pegged to Trump, even if many of his actions — like his recent tweets criticizing LeBron James — are what bring certain issues to the public debate.

Between the lines: The business risk in staying silent on corporate values can be massive. According to Edelman's latest Earned Brand Study:

  • Over two thirds (67%) of consumers will buy a brand for the first time based solely on its position on a controversial topic.
  • More than half (51%) of consumers will be more loyal buyers of a brand that speaks up versus staying silent, buying only that brand and buying it more often.
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of consumers will pay a 25% premium for a brand that supports their position.

Brand experts tell Axios that there's a way to navigate the Trump trap — or being pulled into a politically-charged conversation with the president: Focus on long-term corporate values in response to being called out.

"If brands want to play politics, it's a really dangerous place. But if you fundamentally have a calling you can respond with, you’ll see it through."
— Mark Renshaw is global chair of Edelman's Brand practice

Certain issues, according to the Morning Consult study, like civil rights and racial equality, are considered the safest for brands to discuss. Others, like abortion or kneeling during the national anthem, are more risky.

Navigating the Trump trap in a fast-paced news cycle can be challenging, especially when the president's tweets tie him to many news stories that wouldn't typically be considered political.

"All things politics have become so confrontational that you have to question whether your marketing message will even get through in this type of environment and whether it will be suitable for your brand. It's a less suitable environment now for more brands than it used to be."
— Mike Zaneis, Co-Founder, Brand Safety Institute

The bottom line: It's never been harder to manage the corporate reputation of a big company, but brands that stick to longstanding corporate values and avoid the day-to-day political fray should have a better chance at earning customer loyalty.

Go deeper

Updated 38 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Ipsos poll: COVID trick-or-treat — Study: Trump campaign rallies likely led to over 700 COVID-related deaths.
  2. World: Boris Johnson announces month-long lockdown in England — Greece tightens coronavirus restrictions as Europe cases spike — Austria reimposes coronavirus lockdowns amid surge of infections.
  3. Technology: Fully at-home rapid COVID test to move forward.
  4. States: New York rolls out new testing requirements for visitors.

North Carolina police pepper-spray protesters marching to the polls

Officers in North Carolina used pepper spray on protesters and arrested eight people at a get-out-the-vote rally at Alamance County’s courthouse Saturday during the final day of early voting, the City of Graham Police Department confirmed.

Driving the news: The peaceful "I Am Change" march to the polls was organized by Rev. Greg Drumwright, from the Citadel Church in Greensboro, N.C., and included a minute's silence for George Floyd. Melanie Mitchell told the News & Observer her daughters, age 5 and 11, were among those pepper-sprayed by police soon after.

7 hours ago - Health

Boris Johnson announces month-long COVID-19 lockdown in England

Prime Minsiter Boris Johnson. Photo: NurPhoto / Getty Images

A new national lockdown will be imposed in England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Saturday, as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country topped 1 million.

Details: Starting Thursday, people in England must stay at home, and bars and restaurants will close, except for takeout and deliveries. All non-essential retail will also be shuttered. Different households will be banned from mixing indoors. International travel, unless for business purposes, will be banned. The new measures will last through at least December 2.