The reaction to Merck's CEO leaving Trump's council proves that it pays to get political

Turns out that taking a political stand is good marketing these days.

Pharmaceutical giant Merck’s consumer perception has received a notable lift after its CEO Kenneth Frazier quit President Trump’s manufacturing council last week, according to YouGov BrandIndex, a consumer perception research service for brands.

Frazier’s resignation came on the heels of a white-nationalist and neo-Nazi protest in Charlottesville, Virginia that turned violent. President Trump initially failed to explicitly condemn white supremacists, saying there was blame on “many sides.”

“America’s leaders must honour our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry, and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal,” Frazier said in a statement on Monday. “As CEO of Merck, and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

Trump was quick to lash out at Frazier on Twitter after the announcement, accusing the drug maker of being “a leader in higher & higher drug prices while at the same time taking jobs out of the U.S.” Ultimately, Frazier’s move won him praise and triggered an exodus by other chief executives who were part of the council, before Trump disbanded it himself.

Between August 15, the day after Frazier’s resignation, and Saturday August 19, perceptions of Merck climbed notably before subsiding, said YouGov. The research company interviewed 1,425 adults aged 18 and over between August 1 and August 21, 2017.

Word of mouth about the Merck brand also rose swiftly within the same time frame, from 2% of US adults having spoken about the drug brand with family or friends, to 5% of them having spoken about the company after Frazier’s resignation.

YouGov measured Merck’s consumer perception with its Buzz Score, which asks respondents “If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?” Merck was also measured using YouGov BrandIndex’s Word of Mouth score.

Merck isn’t the only brand to have benefitted from walking out of the council. Intel and Under Armour also received a significant boost to their brands after their executives left the council.

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