Published on October 22, 2020, at 4:40 p.m.
By Julianna Kendall.
Generally, in the past, joining in on political conversations has been more taboo for companies than celebrities. Sometimes, a company’s choice of which candidate to donate money to even brings scandal to news headlines. However, in 2016, a few brands were brave enough to jump in on political conversations with their advertisements and promotions.
In the 2016 election, there were a couple brands that used candidate slogans, debate commercials and politics-based campaigns to sell products. For instance, Bisquick had a Make America Pancakes Again campaign to combat waffle sales. Burger King released a debate commercial to sell its chicken nuggets, and JetBlue offered 150 random passengers a roundtrip flight to the destination of their choice, if all 150 people could agree on one destination to fly to.
Each of these marketing strategies was set up with brand vs. brand approaches or based on the fact that strategists behind brands felt they could profit from the American people being divided in politics. This year, in this 2020 election, things are different. Brands and their flow of political conversation have evolved.
Instead of using political candidates’ slogans to promote products, to hate on each other, or to reinforce the idea that Americans with different political beliefs cannot get along, brands are simply using their platforms to encourage people to vote.
Today, many brands are encouraging the public to vote through merchandise, social media campaigns, and aiding their employees with time off and other services. They understand that 2020 is the year of social responsibility, and the right to vote should not be exempt.
Brands encourage employees to vote
Some brands are earning media attention by being vocal in sharing how they are making it easier for their employees to practice their right to vote. &pizza, a pizza chain based out of D.C., is closing its doors on Nov. 3 and giving over 700 employees paid time off. Yum! Brands, which includes fast-food chains like Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, is providing corporate employees at company-owned locations time off during the day of the election to cast their votes.
Pernod Richard USA, the company that owns Absolut Vodka, also announced that all of its employees will receive paid time off on election day, and its CEO, Ann Mukherjee, is telling other leaders and friends in the drink industry to do the same by their employees. Starbucks also collaborated with Lyft to give its employees free rides to vote or volunteer from Oct. 6 to Nov. 3.
Brands offer tools through apps
Along with giving rides to employees, Starbucks is also one of several companies giving the public the tools they need to be informed and prepared to vote through their apps. Snapchat added a voter checklist to every user’s profile page and created stickers and filters for users to share on their stories. Spotify created a Voter’s Booth Club on its platform that includes podcasts about the election and voting playlists. Facebook and Instagram both placed register to vote notices at the top of users’ feeds that if clicked sends each consumer straight to their state’s registration site.
Brands advocate through fashion merchandise
Other brands are advocating for voting through their merchandise in addition to changes to their digital apps. For instance, Chipotle has changed its name on its digital platforms to Chi-Vote-Le and it has designed a T-shirt for its Chipotle goods on its website.
The shirt comes in the color “white rice” and has a pepper QR code on the sleeve, which when scanned brings people to TurboVote, a website that registers people to vote. The shirts debuted on Oct. 1 for the price of $11.03 (Hint: Nov. 3) and have already sold out. In addition to its shirts and social media stance, Chipotle is also promising to donate money to “Democracy Works,” which is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that makes voting easier for individuals.
Likewise, Levi’s launched a line of tees and hoodies that feature the words “Vote” and “Don’t Just _ About It, Vote About It” to encourage young, eligible Americans to show up at the polls. The merchandise goes together with a PSA that displays celebrities and activists such as Hailey Baldwin, Jaden Smith, Brandon Flynn, Kahili Williams and Dr. Melina Abdullah.
Baldwin, one of the creatives behind the PSA, stated in a press release,”This election to me is the most important in my lifetime and I’m at the age now where I truly understand the impact my generation and the next has. My hope with this call to action is that it would encourage, educate and inspire this next generation to vote in November and to understand why it’s important.”
Along with selling merchandise, Levi Strauss & Co. and the Levi Strauss Foundation are pledging to make 2.6 million dollars’ worth of donations to Black Futures Lab, Rock the Vote, the ACLU and more.
Hundreds of other brands have come out with merchandise, campaigns and services for their employees this year. Regardless of how they showcase their social responsibility, brands of 2020 understand that the public doesn’t want them to stand on the sidelines anymore when it comes to politics.
Leading up to Nov. 3, brands will continue to encourage the public to vote in creative ways to showcase that they have integrity, are committed to corporate responsibility, and will do their part in helping America. Time will tell if brands joining in on political conversations will have an effect on the election, but their efforts have not been lost on American consumers.