Not every brand, it appears, will get through the pearly gates.
After flexing their influence with respect to entertainment content—backing Phil Robertson of A&E’s Duck Dynasty after his anti-gay comments and filling movie theaters for Bible-themed movies like God’s Not Dead and Noah—now conservative Christian activists have some major brands in their sights.
Nike, Walgreens, Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria’s Secret are among the companies seen as “strongly leaning against a Biblical worldview” by the advocacy group Faith Driven Consumer, whose star ratings are based on corporate positions on abortion, gay marriage, sexual imagery and philanthropy. The group has assigned one to five stars (one being the least holy, five being the most) to 75 brands, with most earning two or three stars.
Also among the damnable: Apple, which supports LGBT employees and has an openly gay CEO in Tim Cook. And on April 8, Faith Driven Consumer jumped into the Mozilla controversy with a petition in support of CEO Brendan Eich, who was ousted for opposing gay marriage in California. Within 24 hours, it gathered 4,300 signatures.
Companies that are “leaning toward a Biblical worldview,” according to the group, include Samsung, Chick-fil-A, Lowe’s, Bed Bath & Beyond and Foot Locker.
“The people that join our community are biblically orthodox Christians, a subsegment of the larger Christian audience, and they are looking for brands to engage with them,” said Chris Stone, the group’s founder and brand strategist.
Before the Duck Dynasty dust-up last December, the group had 42,000 members. Today, it boasts 300,000 members and about 73,000 followers on Facebook.
Consumers who count themselves among the faithful make up 15 percent of the U.S. population and spend $1.75 trillion annually, according to Stone.
Will the ratings lead morally questionable brands to see the light and change their ways?
“Mainstream marketers prefer to ignore evaluations like these if they think the consumer segment represented is too small to impact the bottom line,” said P.K. Kannan, marketing professor at the University of Maryland. “Companies have to be pushed to take a stand one way or the other [on social issues], and even then they try to minimize the negativity.”
In an age of transparency, such ratings could be a way for marketers to connect with consumers, said Chris Nurko, global chairman of consultancy FutureBrand Worldwide. “When brands articulate their purpose and beliefs, it sets them apart from competitors,” he said. “If advocates cast light on a company’s practices, instead of hiding the company should say, ‘Yes, this is who we are and what we believe in.’”