Wednesday, November 20, 2019

How brands and marketing play into the political divide

WSJ chart with data from Simmons National Consumer
Study, 2004-2018; click on the image to enlarge it.
The old saying "vote with your wallet" has taken on a deeper meaning in recent years, as brands
increasingly signal political stances they hope will play well with their target audiences. Deliberate stances, as well as the random vagaries of retail, have led to some brands being supported more by Republicans and some by Democrats.

An example: Democrats are more likely to wear Levi's jeans and Republicans are more likely to wear Wranglers. "There is no simple explanation behind those consumer moves. Some of it is due to social and political stances companies are taking, such as Levi’s embrace of gun control. Some is tied to larger geographic shifts in the political parties themselves, as rural counties become more Republican and urban areas lean more Democratic. Wrangler is popular in the cowboy counties of the West and Midwest while San Francisco-based Levi’s resonates more with city dwellers," Suzanne Kapner and Dante Chinni report for The Wall Street Journal. "Together those factors are combining to create a new, more partisan American consumer culture, one where the red/blue divisions that have come to define national politics have drifted into the world of shopping malls and online stores."

Since the 2016 election, companies have begun to weigh in more deliberately on partisan issues like immigration, gun control, and gay rights. Richard Edelman, chief executive at public relations firm Edelman, told Kapner and Chinni: "Consumers are not just voting in elections, they are voting at the stores by choosing brands aligned with their values."

Younger consumers expect brands to take a stand on controversial issues, Procter & Gamble Co. CEO David Taylor told Kapner and Chinni. P&G brand Gillette embraced that expectation with ads questioning toxic masculinity, including a recent one in which a transgender man learned to shave from his father—with a Gillette razor, of course.

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