Brands have typically abstained from political discourse, fearful that they will alienate half of their audience. It’s why NBA legend Michael Jordan refused to endorse a particular political candidate in the 1990s, or why studios preferred their contracted thespians to stay mum on politics during Hollywood’s Golden Age. It’s a reasonable business decision to appear neutral and concentrate on satisfying consumer demand, not engaging in picking sides or partaking in some cause du jour.
But these aren’t typical times. In today’s hostile environment, you are expected to take a political stance, especially a leftist one, otherwise, you’re guilty of “normalizing bigotry” and “aiding white supremacists,” even if you’re quiet and minding your own business.
Nike, the iconic brand that sells sneakers at an inflated price, unveiled the new face of the company’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign: disgraced NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. While executives may have thought that they would appear hip and woke by irking President Donald Trump and his supporters, the political stunt backfired, sending shares plunging nearly 4%, the biggest intraday decline in five months.
Despite residing in “a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” it appears Kaepernick will receive a lucrative deal from Nike, one that consists of exorbitant royalties and his own branded line that includes shirts, shoes, and other apparel. This is on top of the millions he earned from the San Francisco 49ers – most of us could only wish we were as oppressed as Kaepernick.
What we are witnessing is a new marketing trend: Get behind social causes, tell the marketplace where you stand on an issue, and become partisan. This is a development that the left is clamoring for, while the right is far more apathetic.
According to Sprout Social’s “Championing Change in the Age of Social Media” report, 82% of left-leaning consumers want to know where brands stand on important subjects, compared to just 46% of conservative shoppers. The same report discovered that most liberals expect brands to adopt a political stance, but most conservatives are indifferent.
The latter seems far more sensible – 57% of U.S. consumers will buy or boycott a company based on their politics – but brands are taking a gamble by weighing in on hot-button issues in the age of Trump.
Brands Take a Stand
In the summer of 2017, Pepsi embarrassed itself with a strange advertisement that featured Kendall Jenner participating in a protest and easing tensions with the police by handing an officer a Pepsi. The ad was ostensibly in support of modern-day social justice demonstrations, and it hit all the diversity checkmarks, but it faced such strong backlash that the soda maker had to pull it and issue an apology.
During Super Bowl LI, 84 Lumber, a Pennsylvania-based building materials supply firm, ran a commercial that featured a Hispanic mother and daughter trying to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border. The ad, which failed to contain coyotes and drug dealers, was in direct opposition to President Trump’s border wall proposal.
That same year’s Super Bowl ran other social justice commercials from Airbnb, which opposed the president’s executive order that temporarily restricted citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations with #WeAccept, and Audi, which promoted equal pay for equal work. The former was awkward, but the latter was ridiculous, especially when it debunked itself on the gender pay gap the same week.
The Red Hen did not produce a politically-dominated marketing campaign back in June 2018, but it made national headlines for kicking out customers it disagreed with. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was dining at the Lexington, Virginia-based restaurant when the owner decided to refuse service to Sanders and her guests because she was employed in an “inhumane and unethical administration.” (No word if any of former President Barack Obama’s officials dined at the same restaurant and were denied service.)
Celebrities, many of whom are their own brands, have joined in on the anti-conservative fun. Eminem cussed out his Trump-supporting fans, something he would never have had the temerity to do at the start of his rap career. LeBron James told reporters that he doesn’t think a lot of Trump supporters “was educated.” Robert De Niro spends every waking moment of his life shouting profanities at the president – this old man ain’t what he used to be.
Of course, most news media brands have been slanted heavily to the left for years, but they have gone into overdrive with their anti-Trump coverage since 2016. Every night on the Counterfeit News Network, there are seven anti-Trump panelists for every one pro-Trump commentator. The rest of the network television landscape – CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, ESPN, and everyone else in the alphabet soup – have specialized in political activism instead of political reportage. Fox News gets slammed for its right-leaning bias, but one voice in a sea of leftism isn’t much.
Holding the Wrong Views
While some brands are open and loud about their support for progressive causes and their disdain for President Trump and the Republican Party, other popular brands are reserved and quiet about their endorsements of conservative endeavors. When it is discovered that you hold a position that contradicts allowable opinions, you face an angry mob and are accused of throwing your politics in their faces.
Case in point: In-N-Out Burger, the fast-food chain that was reported to have donated $25,000 to the California Republican Party. The company did not print Republican logos on their wrappers or hold rallies for conservative candidates. The business kept its views close to its chest and carried on, but that was too much for some to bear.
Mozilla was the victim of a boycott campaign in 2014 when it was reported that former CEO Brendan Eich donated to several Republican politicians. He was forced out of the non-profit organization. Like In-N-Out, Eich was quiet about his stances and did not shove his views down the throats of users. Still, he dared violate leftist groupthink, a big no-no in Silicon Valley.
Even thanking President Trump for something can land you in hot water these days.
Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone was outraged that Samuel Adams owner, Jim Koch, thanked President Trump for cutting corporate tax rates. It wasn’t an endorsement of Trump or a call-to-action; it was simple gratitude for getting back more of the company’s money. Mayor Curtatone urged a boycott, but it quickly fizzled out because Americans seem to enjoy their beer.
Shut Up and [Insert Here]
“Shup and sing” or “Shut up and dribble.”
Fox News Channel host Laura Ingraham has had this saying that dates back to the early-2000s. It refers to businesses, celebrities, and athletes going political when we just want them to excel in their area of expertise. For LeBron James, it’s playing basketball. For Barbara Streisand, it’s allegedly singing.
Nobody should prohibit a corporation or a media personality from commenting on the news of the day or sharing their viewpoints on contentious issues. That said, brands take a huge risk when they decide to alienate half of their audience by supporting a controversial person or provocative subject. Perhaps some executives are too trapped in their echo chambers that they don’t realize that there are others who hold opinions opposite to theirs and patronize their stores at the same time.
Recent polls suggest that more consumers want brands to go political. It is an unwise strategy if you’re unwilling to isolate at least one-third of your clientele. If you’re a juggernaut like Amazon and Google, then it is a tactic you can get away with – they already ban customers, so that’s how big they are.
Ask yourself this: If you loved former President Obama and your favorite coffee shop repeatedly slammed him, would you patronize the business? If you adore President Trump and your favorite MLB team constantly lambasted him, would you spend your hard-earned dollars at the ballpark? Be honest.
Should brands go political? Let us know in the comments section!Whatfinger.com and newcomer ConservativeNewsDirect.com