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Common advice used to be to avoid political viewpoints in business dealings, lest you end up alienating a faction of clients or consumers. But that “old” thinking is rapidly being replaced by a “new” political realism, in which consumers care about politics. Now, savvy marketers are responding. After all, approximately 22.3 million viewers tuned in to the opening night of the recent RNC according to Nielsen Co., and 26.2 million watched the first night of the DNC (these numbers do not include online viewers). While some brands such as AT&T, Google, Marriott International and Microsoft have gone so far as to endorse certain candidates and parties, other brands are using true bi-partisan politics to their advantage. Convenience store 7-Eleven is tapping into the fervor, once again promoting its popular 7-Election, which offers coffee drinkers the choice of red (Romney), blue (Obama) or white (undecided) cups for their to-go cuppa joe. Now in its fourth election cycle, 7-Eleven claims its faux-election results are often within 1% of the national vote, and within several percentage points of most states. (As of this posting, 7-Election showed Obama leading at 58% and Romney at 42%, but that could change on Sept. 28, when the store will promote COF-FREE DAY 2012.) In a more playful ad spot, popular whiskey brand Maker’s Mark has signed James Carville and Mary Matalin — real-life husband and wife famous for their opposing political views — to pitch “The Cocktail Party,” which aims to unite voters from across the political spectrum over their shared love of drink. The brand is supporting its “campaign” via Facebook and YouTube, as well as with events, TV-spots and out-of-home ads. This spot debuted on Comedy Central in conjunction with the opening of the RNC:
Maybe I’m just blogging out loud, but it seems like the presidential campaign season provides brands the perfect opportunity to rock the marketing boat. Savvy brands think less policy and more playful, usually with winning results.
The 2008 election race saw brands as varied as Dave’s Gourmet Hot Sauce, Jones Soda and Svedka Vodka push presidential-themed products. This year, Dave’s is at again, tempting taste buds to predict the outcome of the election by casting a vote with purchase of a bottle of 2012 Adjustable Opinion/Origin hot sauce. But it’s not just food and beverage brands making the most of the political play. Cable network Comedy Central is wrapping a month-long promotion with Urban Outfitters, selling election-themed merchandise such as T-shirts, coffee mugs, posters and buttons linked to Comedy Central programs “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “The Colbert Report” and “Indecision 2012.” And lest we forget the candidates themselves, brands in their own right. From Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and YouTube, politicians (and their wives) are racking up fans and followers. And while Obama leads Romney on all social media fronts, that too could change in the coming weeks.
Voters – nay, consumers – will surely be watching and, along with brands, reacting.