The Rise of the Political Brand

Corporations are being expected to take a political stand, a risky proposition that could result in backlash, boycotts, or a raving army of advocates.

Since the dawn of business, the influences of politics have resulted in private political advisors, quiet lobbying in political offices, and funding political programs.

But now, customers are expecting brands to take a public, forward expression on how the brand affiliates with a particular political bent, notion, or value.

Careful, if you do it wrong, boycotts are emerging against brands that don’t align with a political stance of their customer base, which results in app downloads, lost revenues, and a tarnished brand.

This means the CEO, CMO, and other executives must lean forward on deciding if they should make a position. The examples are increasing:

  • Last night’s Superbowl game sported ads from Audi, Budweiser, 84 Lumber and others had political bents.
  • Tech companies just signed an anti-immigration ban document, rallying as a group, clearly indicating their values.
  • Uber CEO pushed to step down from White House advisory board, while Elon Musk states a clear stance on why to stay.
  • Starbucks promised to hire many immigrants, and three years ago, Hobby Lobby, stood by their values, which set off the country in debate.
  • Most noticeably, is last night’s Superbowl performer Lady Gaga, is being analyzed for not taking an overt political stance. As this sentiment grows, brands will need to prepare for questions on why they should — or should not take a political stance.

What does this future hold? A few predictions:

  1. CMOs will hire political-brand advisors. No, I’m not talking about lobbyist or government relations professionals, but experts in political campaigning and brand influence. For example, a few years ago, Uber hired David Plouffe, who worked on the Obama campaign.
  2. A new professional category will emerge, agencies, consultants, authors, speakers will emerge that tie together political and brand strategy that aids the CMO — and achieves bottom line growth.
  3. A new feature of enterprise marketing software will emerge to measure customer political preference and affiliation — with a dashboard for the CMO to manage.
  4. CEOs will lead a discussion at board level, with the CMO to discuss if a brand should take a political stance, after carefully examining the impacts to government relations, regulation, customer preference.
  5. Brands will politically poll their customers, partners, prospects and competitor base to ascertain the political bent of their constituent base. Some bold brands will publish these polls in public.
  6. A more public association between brands and their preferred political ideology and perhaps candidate will emerge.
  7. Customers will sport their favorite product as a form of political activism: Supporting, advocating, or boycotting online and in front of their real world friends.

Companies have no choice to consider their political bent, not just behind closed doors, but now in public.