Over the past few months, brands’ political decisions have been in the spotlight like never before. Some companies are presented with the pivotal decision to either take a stand or fly under the radar. Others have been thrust into the middle of sticky situations because of stances they have taken or their association with politically influential people.
We’ve found the way brands choose to react to the current political climate increasingly interesting, and have seen brands align generally in one of the four following ways:
1. Political by design—These brands were created around a political purpose. Take Planned Parenthood for example. Their mission statement takes a pointedly political stance; “Planned Parenthood believes in the fundamental right of each individual, throughout the world, to manage his or her fertility, regardless of the individual’s income, marital status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, or residence.” The organization was founded to provide resources for women’s reproductive health, and in doing so took a very strong stance on a polarizing topic.
2. Political by choice—Politics are not fundamentally embedded in the mission statement of these brands. Instead, they choose to take a stance through the donations they make or candidates they endorse. Microsoft, Comcast and Dreamworks were among the top ten companies to make political contributions last year.
3. Political by association— LL Bean is a good example of this type of brand—the company tries to stay out of politics, but some of their leaders made contributions to a Donald Trump super PAC last year. Because of this, the brand was included in the Grab Your Wallet boycott. The retail boycott was organized to encourage consumers to avoid brands associated with the Trump family (like Ivanka’s clothing line).
4. Purposefully a-political—These are brands that go out of their way to appeal to both sides of the spectrum. This year Fortune did a poll after they published the Fortune 500 to see which brands were favored more by liberals and conservatives. Six companies ranked in the top ten of both lists: Amazon, Alphabet, Apple, Walt Disney, Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson. These brands have been able to maintain loyalty from both sides of the political spectrum despite the polarizing election year.
This year experts have argued that brands no longer have the option to stay out of politics. Even if they appeal to both sides, companies like Apple have been known to make political statements. Politics have become ingrained in the everyday American life over the past few months, and brands have been some of the loudest voices in the conversation. For some companies, it helps their bottom line, but we’ve certainly seen it backfire as well.
How do you think brands should interact with the current political climate? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
Ride for the brand,
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