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Why American Brands Should Avoid Politics

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American Brands Should Avoid Politics

It seems to be the question of the moment, in meeting after meeting: “If you were preparing a strategy for an American brand right now, what would you tell them to do?”

At one level, I get the question. As consumers react to what they see or believe about the world today, the threat to overtly nationalistic brands seems very real. That’s because consumers can lump country and brand together, according to Tony Chapman. And if buyers could bundle ideology with country, that suggests an increasing tendency to tie politics to brands.

Haven’t the reactions in the business world so far been interesting? Everyone’s running into a spotlight or ducking for cover. Some companies are trying to look like they’re playing nice with the wider political agenda. Others are trying to get away. Once upon a time, a brand could only have dreamed of being mentioned by a President. Now CEOs are resigning political appointments because their customers and employees have told them they got too close. Even the Superbowl ads are up for scrutiny …

It’s as if, in the face of brazen politics, everyone thinks it’s their business to be a politician too. I don’t think that’s the role of brands at all. To me, there’s a huge opportunity here for those brands that choose to take it. These are emotional times. And brands are powered by emotions. Instead of playing politics, brands should perhaps be looking to meet the wider needs of their customers by providing reassurance, reinforcement, support, inspiration … brands have an opportunity in this environment to do something powerful. In America. And beyond. I wonder how many will step up, go beyond the platitudes and make that happen?

According to the most recent Havas Group “Meaningful Brands” report, people wouldn’t miss 74% of brands and they find 60% of the content that companies produce is poor, irrelevant or fails to deliver for them. That’s a massive indictment on the strategies that most brands are using and on the content that they’re producing.

Brands need to get back to the things that mean something: how do we help people, and why should they look to us for that help? This seems like a great time – perhaps the best time – to focus on that.

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