Smith Brain Trust / April 7, 2021

Big Brands Take Aim Over Georgia Voting Laws

And Why Corporations Are Increasingly Speaking Up

Big Brands Take Aim Over Georgia Voting Laws

SMITH BRAIN TRUST  Major changes to voting laws in Georgia have Republicans facing backlash in that state – not just from their Democratic rivals and from civil rights groups, but also from corporations, like Delta and United airlines, Coca-Cola and even Major League Baseball.

They’re speaking out and threatening to withhold financial support for the politicians who support the new law, which creates new voter ID requirements, expands early voting in Republican stronghold areas, and puts more control over elections into the hands of state lawmakers.

In a substantial flex, the MLB took its protest a step further, moving its popular All-Star Game from Atlanta, to Denver. The economic impact of that move, says Maryland Smith’s Amna Kirmani, is significant.

“The estimate is that about $100 million will be lost in terms of Georgia tourism for the pulling of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which is a lot of money. And especially during the pandemic, the hotels, the tourist industry was counting on this. So I think that hurts,” Kirmani said this week, speaking with the CBC’s Matt Galloway on "The Current."

Some other corporate responses, she said, have been “weak."

As similar laws wind through the legislative process in other Republican-controlled states, executives across consumer-facing brands are contemplating how best to respond. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is staking ground for his party, warning of “serious consequences” for corporations that “behave like a woke parallel government.”

Kirmani, the Ralph J. Tyser Professor of Marketing at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, has spent much of her academic career studying consumer psychology, the way we identify closely with some brands and not others, and the “when” and “why” of consumer loyalty. Recently, her research has focused on where consumer behavior intersects with corporate social responsibility.

“All the studies that have been done over the last few years find that consumers are becoming increasingly activist in wanting their companies to stand up for social justice and to express their values. And so I think this is going to continue,” Kirmani said. “Millennials in particular and younger consumers really demand value driven corporations. So this is a trend that corporations are going to have to deal with in changing their role from just economic self-interest to more of a social justice approach.”

For an excerpt and audio recording of her discussion with Galloway, go to: CBC’s "The Current."



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