In the third part of our Click State series, Crowd DNA New York explores the changing role of brands in America through an analysis of digital activations and online conversations...
This post is part of our Click State series in the lead up to the US election, analyzing digital activations and online conversations (using our Culture At Scale method) and turning emergent trends into valuable learnings. You can read the previous post here.
‘Vote’ was once a message used only by brands already engaged in politics. Now, it’s a must for all. Just as Covid-19 turned parking lots into outdoor movie theaters and parks into yoga studios, brands are reimagining their role as influencers of American culture. By analyzing how a selection of brands are activating digitally and the subsequent conversations online, we can spot the new, emerging standards that they are being held to. Americans are demanding a whole lot more from the businesses they support – and during the intensity of the election, those demands are being met, even if it means losing customers.
Pick A Side
With this year’s surge in Black Lives Matter activism, Americans got comfortable boycotting brands. This also brought a wary eye to performative activism. No longer is a vague post in solidarity enough. This election, consumers demand that brands clearly state candidate allegiance as there’s an understanding that shopping a brand can translate directly to campaign funding. Movement for and against brands is swift, too. Always left leaning, Patagonia took the plunge with playful messages on their tags, driving up social support for the brand. Goya, on the other hand, shocked Latinx brand loyalists by pledging support for Trump, sending consumers into a fierce boycott. Such breaks in brand loyalty show how deeply Americans value businesses that pledge a side regardless of a loss in profits.
Holding Space For Voting
Whether it’s physical space or virtual space on an app, brands are lending themselves to the fight. Just like the perfume brands that manufactured hand sanitizer in response to Covid, KITH and NBA are repurposing their spaces to house voter registration, forgoing business as a result.
Virtual spaces are being transformed too. While Uber and Instagram seem unlikely places to get informed, they’re trading app real estate for voting resources. Voting, registration and ballots can feel intimidating – but brands can use their established and trusted relationships with Americans to educate them in spaces that feel familiar and less intimidating than the Board Of Elections office.
With campaigning geared toward older voters, aging candidates and low tech voting options, the election can feel out of touch for younger Americans. These voters are also new to traditional politics; unsure where to register, get information, or actually cast a vote. Taking advantage of their credibility factor and ability to relate to young Americans, brands like Snap and ATTN: are bridging the gap. These brands are using colloquial language, emoji and relevant references to speak the way these voters talk among peers. Key to this is that these brands usually relate to younger Americans with similar messaging, making these efforts feel natural.
As Americans raise the bar on their expectations, we see the role of ‘brand’ change. Generic messages that speak to the entire population, or t-shirts that read ‘vote’ without any larger action, no longer have the wow factor. In a climate where most Americans feel a lack of guidance from the government, social conversations and digital activations prove that relationships are being elevated. With brands now being seen as trusted partners and institutions, consumers demand their dedication – whether that be explicitly stating candidate allegiance; genuinely committing to political education; or even giving up valuable resource and space for voting activity, Americans expect full devotion from the businesses they support, just as they would from a political candidate.
Source: Brandwatch tracking data from Jul 1, 2020-Oct 20, 2020
KITH: (“voter registration” OR voterregistration OR “register to vote” OR registertovote) AND (kith)
NBA: nba AND (“voter resgistration” OR voterregistration OR “register to vote” OR registertovote)
Goya: goya OR “goya foods” OR goyafood