In the spirit of the inauguration of our 45th President, Donald J. Trump, we have decided to examine why commercial brands should stay out of politics or at least find ways to get around it.
For a commercial brand to dive into politics is a messy strategy. On the one hand, it would be smart for a brand to disassociate from politicians who may have done something offensive. On the other hand, choosing to support politicians or ideologies tied to a political party may either attract customers or hinder some consumers from purchasing the company’s goods or services.
Take for example, two different scenarios where brand association and politics didn’t mix very well:
Macy’s vs. Trump
When Republican Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, made controversial remarks about Mexican immigrants back in 2015, the retail giant, Macy’s, decided to pull all Trump merchandise from their stores, from dress shirts and ties to cuff links. Trump then boycotted Macy’s and often tweeted about the company using the hashtags #boycottmacys and #dumpmacys. Adweek reported, Macy’s sales fell 2.1% over the 2016 holiday period in November and December, and will be cutting 10,100 jobs and closing 100 stores.
The move to disassociate the Macy’s brand from Trump was smart on an ethical stand point, but Trump’s boycott played a part in its holiday sales slump.
L.L Bean vs. Trump
L.L Bean’s political fiasco began with this tweet:
The reason why Trump sent out this tweet was because Linda Bean, granddaughter of company founder, Leon Leonwood Bean, donated money to a PAC aiding Trump’s presidential campaign. L.L Bean consumers who disagree with the Trump’s ideologies has started to boycott the company, even using #Grabyourwallet as a rally cry. The company released a statement pointing out that the company as a whole does not make political endorsements or contributions on Facebook:
“As every member of the family would agree, no individual alone speaks on behalf of the business or represents the values of the company that L.L. built. With this in mind, we are deeply troubled by the portrayal of L.L. Bean as a supporter of any political agenda. L.L. Bean does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political matters, or make political contributions. Simply put, we stay out of politics. To be included in this boycott campaign is simply misguided, and we respectfully request that Grab Your Wallet reverse its position.”
-Leon Leonwood Bean, Founder of L.L. Bean
Executives and board members have to be careful when engaging in politics because they can unintentionally associate an entire brand to a political agenda which can have adverse affects on its customer loyalty and brand perception. Even employees and other stakeholders of a brand can easily get influenced. Take for example, the recent Uber controversy where protesters blocked the front of its headquarters after Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO, became a member of Trump’s economic advisory team among other major leaders, such as CEOs of Disney, GM and Disney.
We know it can be hard to ignore all the politics when we are so heavily infused in it. The best way around it is to either stay out of it completely or be very careful and strategic about how you word your content.
If a company does want to enter the political arena, our branding and video production team at TriVision, a DC ad agency, has recommended taking a different route. Perhaps a flight somewhere far far away from politics?