Can Your Clients Sell More When Using Politically Charged Messages?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Does it pay off for marketers to get political in their ad messaging? The answer to that question likely depends on the core audience that your clients are trying to reach. The success of a politically charged ad campaign is often linked to proper timing, connection to brand mission and the tone of the message, according to the latest research.

At first glance, the numbers compiled in the February 2018 CMO Survey Highlights and Insights Report from Dr. Christine Moorman from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Management and her partners would suggest businesses aren’t in a mood to risk reputations by taking a visibly political stand. Nearly 83% of brands represented in the survey don’t believe it’s appropriate for them to announce their position on a politically charged issue.

This attitude varies by industry. For example, consumer services, mining/​construction and transportation businesses all agreed (100%) they don’t plan to take on a political issue in their advertising campaigns. Education companies (50%), energy companies (66.7%) and retailers/​wholesalers (69.2%) sense more flexibility in their customer base. These are the types of clients media sales reps might want to talk to about this type of messaging.

In particular, marketers who have established brands and customer bases can generate emotional connections with consumers when they delve into heated issues. By taking political stands on topics that align with their reputations, brands become more altruistic and transparent. Writing for Retail Dive, Cara Salpini describes Patagonia’s recent TV ad campaign to encourage consumers to stand up for keeping public lands safe. Patagonia is already known as a brand that supports human connections with the great outdoors. The brand’s new message is not a stretch.

As a result, Patagonia’s core customers likely applaud the company’s appeal. And, other consumers may support the company because of this stand and start buying its products.

Today, only 15% of consumers feel strongly emotionally connected to a brand. Consumers tell researchers they want to see more of these connections. Data from Capgemini indicates that the rising Gen Z consumers are already scrutinizing brands to see if their political stances hold water. When these connections exist, brands can count on increased loyalty and sales.

Shannon Warner, retail managing consulting partner at Capgemini, says, "It is essential for brands to have a personality, to build an identity, to stand for something." While your clients may be reluctant to position themselves as activists, their future sales may depend on it. Start talking with them about how they can communicate messages that align with their identities and core missions.