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Should Your Brand Tackle Political Content?


What brands should respond to socially, culturally, and politically can be fraught. Many companies, big and small, struggle with hitting the right balance when tackling political issues, and/or responding to current events. 2024 will be an especially difficult year for brands as it is an election year in the U.S. 

For many marketers, this will require a delicate balance of acknowledging the climate while also making strategic choices based on what the brand's mission and vision are, as well as who the target audience is.

Below are resources on how to achieve the right balance.

Balancing Act: How Brand Advertisers Can Prepare for Election Year 2024. Wpromote, November 2023.
It's shaping up to be an intense election year, with audiences more politically charged and divided than ever. Brands looking to appeal to new customers will face consumer volatility, brand safety risks, and rising media costs due to the influx of political ads. With all this turmoil, planning will be key to 2024 success. So how can you start preparing now to put the right strategy in place?

Americans to brands: look inward before weighing in on politics, per report. Marketing Brew, November 2023.
It's about time to start thinking about how the 2024 presidential election might play into brand strategy. But for some brands, the answer might be not at all. According to Morning Consult's "Election Playbook" for brands, most American adults (53 percent) said corporations shouldn't involve themselves in political and/or cultural issues, unchanged from 2020. However, that's down from 61 percent who said corporations should sit on the sidelines in 2019.

Strategies For Success: Overcoming Election Cycle Advertising Challenges. AdExchanger, August 2023.
Election cycles always bring attention to highly debated social issues. And today, it feels like American politics are in a never-ending election cycle. While voters won't select the president until November of next year, campaign season is already in full swing. The president is officially running for reelection and the Republican candidates have entered the fray. As a result, brands already need to start preparing themselves for a contentious election season, crafting strategies for how they'll deal with hot-button issues. They'll also need to be thoughtful and strategic about where their ads will appear. After all, it's important not to get caught alongside problematic content.

U.S. Adults Split on Companies Taking Political, Social Stances. Gallup, January 2023.
Americans are divided about whether businesses should take a public stance on political and social issues, with 48 percent believing they should and 52 percent saying they should not. Younger adults are more likely than older adults to believe businesses should take a stance: 59 percent of those aged 18 to 29 thinks as much, compared with 51 percent of those aged 30 to 44, 41 percent of those aged 45 to 59, and 43 percent of those aged 60 and older.

Marketing and Politics: How the Presidency Plays a Role in Consumer Behavior. MSI, January 2021.
Following a major election, consumer preferences shift. They buy more of the brands they view as aligned with the winning political party and buy less of the brands aligned with the losing party, according to a recent study by Eugene Pavlov, assistant marketing professor at the University of Miami's Herbert Business School, and Natalie Mizik, marketing professor at the University of Washington's Foster School of Business.

How Do Consumers Feel When Companies Get Political? HBR, February 2020.
Researchers surveyed 168 managers across industries, as well as advanced MBA students, to find out how business activism affects consumer perceptions. They found that people are less swayed by corporate advocacy than has been widely reported. When participants were told a company had conservative values, it was more negatively perceived, but when they were told a company had liberal values, their opinions of it remained neutral. They also found that women perceived organizations that are involved in political activity more negatively than men. Finally, they discovered that participants generally acknowledged that political advocacy is both a way for companies to connect with customers and promote their brand. Using advocacy to advertise to target audiences isn't seen as manipulative pandering. Rather, it's seen as common practice.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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