Marketing and Politics

There is something to be said about the times when the political arena has the capacity to create such a dramatic paradigm shift due solely to its volatility, especially when it isn’t even trying very hard. We saw such movements in marketing and businesses involving the likes of the National Football League (an entity that generates about $10-15 billion in annual revenue), beginning with peaceful protests against police brutality and ending with what almost appeared to be a personal agenda against the President of the United States.

But, it would seem that, while many were once rather secretive about their political allegiances, people – and indeed businesses as well – seem to be more outspoken regarding politics than ever before, despite statistics that suggested marketing tactics involving politics tend to fail more often than not, and the risks of such tactics were almost never worth the reward, if any. In fact, a survey conducted by the 4A’s this year concluded that over half of those polled frowned or disapproved whenever advertisements took any sort of political stance. This is also reflected by the aforementioned National Football League, which has taken a hit in viewership compared to its general expectations – as much as 15% earlier in the season according to Nielsen ratings.

All of this begs the question. Is this the new standard for marketing and advertising tactics? Some may argue that this is the latest show of American patriotism, as many of the ads that are being aired are in direct opposition to the policies of the President. Others suggest that the recent phenomenon of being protest-happy may just be the latest in subliminal advertising and marketing tactics by utilizing drama and conflict as a compelling source for marketing genius. With new topics such as the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate accords and the Muslim travel ban adding to the controversy of NFL players protesting as well as the clearer-than-ever divisiveness of party politics, it is some food for thought to consider whether appealing to the political views (appealing to whichever side they might) of the public would or wouldn’t inspire more “patriotism” by purchasing said products or acquiring said services in the name of political favoritism. In several cases, the public already identifies certain entities with some degree of patriotism (howsoever they choose to define it) or political affiliation. In the poll conducted by the 4A’s, 43 percent of conservative respondents thought that Chik-Fil-A was patriotic and 30 percent of liberal respondents thought the New York Times was patriotic. What does this mean for marketing as it relates to party politics, if anything, or is this simply a fad that advertisers and companies are currently riding until political tensions ease up?