The New Brand Commitment to Politics in Marketing


There was a time, long, long ago, in a land far, far away when brands would no more take a stand politically than they would tell you about the starving children in Pakistan who made those shoes you bought for $200. Not anymore.

Let's understand something. In today's new demographic marketing, you find your demo market (no longer based on age, gender and income, but now based on common interest), and you commit to it. For example, Red Bull committed to extreme sports. Their homepage had no Red Bull on it; just extreme sports. While they didn't run it by me, I’m assuming they thought that those into extreme sports would drink Red Bull, as they, unlike me and my poor, un-exercised body, are capable of guzzling caffeine and stimulants without fearing a heart attack. And they probably thought that guy sitting on the couch merely watching extreme sports, while his significant other yelled at him to go mow the lawn on his ride-‘em-cowboy lawnmower, believed a Red Bull would get him, an extreme sports person at heart, through that ride. A window into themselves, and a window into that which they aspire to be. Anyone who knows Blue Shoe code phrases, knows that mantra.

But this latest thing is new.

If you are for Trump, you are evil; if you are against Trump, you are evil. There is no common denominator. One would assume that brands, the big brands, would never, ever take a stand that would risk losing half of America.

Well, a huge mega-trend just happened this week. The difference between a trend and a mega-trend, you ask? Trends come and go (hula hoops); mega-trends are here to stay (birth control).

Brands are taking stands. They would have you believe they are doing it based on a core belief system - a belief system so strong, they are willing to take a hit (which really isn't a hit at all when you break it down).

Let's start with Dove. Created out of Ogilvy London, their new ads take the Kellyanne Conway wish-I-could-take-it-back phrase, #AlternativeNews, and extol some funny (some very, very funny) promises of what Dove has done and can do for you. If you are a Trump supporter, you will never, ever, ever buy Dove again, all the while singing Taylor Swift’s “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together”. Bold move, right? Not so fast... let's look at their demographics. They sell to women, ages 20-something to way up the age chain, who care about the environment (they tout that), and who will pay up to have the pure Dove bar in their baths. So, really, where’s the risk?

The one that surprised me was Budweiser. The ad about the immigrant they threw together for this weekend's Super Bowl is many things, but pro I-Can-Make-America-Great-Again, it is not. I would have thought their demographic was more... well, Trumpish. Then it hit me. They believe their core demographic is cemented to them. I read last year they were trying to appeal to the urban and younger crowd. What better way to do it than by saying, "we are with you politically”? One ad, not a series of them, run before the big football game and during it, but never again after it (let's see if I'm right). No harm, no foul, really. It would be dangerous if they kept that messaging up, but they won't. And, if pressed, they will say that it's not about general policies, it's just about a specific immigration mess-up.

So many firsts these past few months. So many new things to adjust to. And now we have big brands going with politics over products? I'm exhausted.

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