Culture Hack

The Business of Politics: Should Brands Take a Stand Against Gun Violence?

It’s not lost on many of us that the U.S. has an issue with gun violence. We are only five months into 2023, and we have experienced 165 mass shootings. Not including singular issues of gun misuse like last month’s recent shooting involving Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old student and budding classical musician from Kansas City, who was simply picking up his siblings after school and got the wrong address or Kaylin Gillis, the 20-year-old who pulled into the wrong driveway in upstate New York and was shot dead in her car only days prior to Ralph.

Some have chalked up these scenarios to the wrong place, wrong time, or a misinterpretation of the stand-your-ground laws that states have flexed to defend the utilization of guns or their second amendment rights. However, those on the other side of this debate questioned how often, how many lives, and how many excuses can be made before something is done and people feel safe.

As a strategist, I’m compelled to wonder what real-life scenarios we can learn from as case studies so that we can use them as impactful guides for change. In addition, who or what can empower larger entities, residents, and everyone in between to push for a much-needed adjustment to our safety?  

This leads me to reflect on times when brands took a stance on social-political issues in hopes of impacting a greater good and, by default, empowered consumers to join them in doing the same:

Reproductive Rights

When the reproductive rights or choices of millions of women (or those with female reproductive organs) came into question, companies such as Yelp, Uber, Lyft, and even the Match Group (which houses Tinder, Hinge, and Match) were the first set of brands who took a stance on the matter and publicly offered to cover the transportation, legal and medical costs of their employees. Many of these brands were headquartered in Texas (where the ban first began) or had a significant employee base within the state. Leaving them pushed to quickly confront what became a widespread issue.

Racial Equity 

Unlike many brands that just put their rose-colored diversity glasses on, Ben & Jerry’s has stood for equity across gender, sexual orientation, and race since its inception in 1987. The company advocates issues like racial equity, global warming, gay rights, and standing up for those suffering persecution from the injustices created by systematic oppression. So, it didn’t surprise anyone when they created socially-themed ice cream flavors to raise awareness around Black Lives Matter. Keeping in mind, the brand also didn’t just stop there. They even took a step further to self-govern themselves by opening up board positions to those who are Black and of color. After all, if you want a change in shifting culture towards the greater good, you must start at the top.  


The impact the 2017 Muslim ban had on the global economy was devastating. The first of its kind, the executive order filed by former President Trump banned travel to the United States for 90 days from seven predominantly Muslim countries spanning across Africa and the greater Middle East. These protests at airports across the country as it prevented immigration resettlement from anyone residing in the countries that made the list, resulting in court injunctions and other legal matters to fight anti-Muslim sentiment. Of course, the US is not new to religious or racial persecution; however, this was the first-time companies (particularly those in the tech sector) took a stand and filed a legal objection. Ninety-seven companies, including Twitter, Intel, Reddit, Netflix, Lyft, Kickstarter, PayPal, Yelp, Airbnb, Spotify, and even Dropbox, to name a few, flexed their power and influence on something legally and morally wrong.

So if brands can take a stand on these crucial matters, why not gun control? What stops them from stepping in and using their power and influence to push what is a much-needed change in our safety? 

In reality, companies don’t generally take a political stance on a matter unless it profoundly impacts their business. Brands have been noticeably silent on gun violence. However, 68% of US consumers expect brands to be clear about their values (Millennials and Gen Z have the highest expectations on these matters). So this begs the question, if consumers can force brands to take a stand on essential subjects regarding equity, why haven’t many addressed the need to change gun violence within America?

With the world constantly on fire, it has become harder for brands not to, as unhappy environments don’t make for happy consumers. That may be where actual change can begin.

-W. Sky Downing