The 2016 presidential election divided the nation presenting a quandary for many brands. Do they steer clear of political discourse altogether or jump in and risk isolating customers and prospects by taking a side? Our advice at the time was to tread carefully and focus on unifiers: the holidays, the Super Bowl, apple pie, American optimism, whatever it might take to bring Americans together.

Now, six months later, in our third wave of post-election consumer research, we find that Americans are increasingly worried about a whole host of things, particularly healthcare, and that any confidence in the country’s ability to unite has eroded (see chart below). In such an environment calls for unity seem shallow. Our view now: Brands do not need to proactively get embroiled in politics but they should be true to their values and unafraid to articulate those values when the circumstances call for it and when the timing is appropriate.

America Election Results June - LinkedIn

Gap Inc.

Take the Gap, for example. In its spring/summer 2017 print and video campaign called “I am Gap,” the retailer promotes diversity by casting real people from all walks of life including a woman wearing a hijab and a cowboy. The company devotes a page on its website to its values and how it translates those values into actions. According to Carlee Gomes, a Gap blogger, “equality, inclusion and sustainability are not buzzwords at Gap Inc. These are the values Gap Inc. was founded on and they’re woven into the fabric of our business.”

Expedia.com

Expedia.com launched a campaign in January centered on Expedia’s belief that travel can broaden the mind and foster goodwill and friendship. According to Vic Walia, senior director, brand marketing at Expedia.com: “The message of ‘Travel the World Better’ is at the core of why Expedia exists. We believe that travel has the power to transform you and shape your views of the world. We believe that the more each of us travel and peek over our neighbor’s fence, we learn that we have more in common than we have different.”

Chase

Chase recently demonstrated a different way to put brand values into action by deciding not to display its ads on more than 400,000 unvetted websites. According to a New York Times article, “As more and more brands find their ads popping up next to toxic content like fake news sites or offensive YouTube videos, JPMorgan has limited its display ads to about 5,000 websites it has pre-approved.” Chase now handpicks the sites that are appropriate for its ads, highlighting the risks associated with programmatic ad buying in the current polarizing environment.

What we think

Following our November survey we reported that life goes on despite a divided nation. With no reported changes in the outlook for consumer spending and the financial health of consumers stable from February-May, it appears that this is still the case, at least for now. But consumers are increasingly worried and losing confidence that the country will be able to unite. In these uncertain times it is more important than ever for brands to clearly articulate their values.

Since November, Mintel has been commissioning research in order to analyze how the 2016 US Presidential Election has impacted consumers’ financial confidence and how key consumer markets are likely to be affected. Mintel’s 40 year track record means that we are in the perfect position to assess the impact of the election on consumer behavior, both in the US and globally.

Andrew Davidson is SVP/Chief Insights Officer for Mintel Comperemedia. He is an expert in data-driven cross channel marketing intelligence, consumer behavior and global trends. As a thought leader and expert speaker, Andrew has consistently predicted the evolution of payments marketing for the past 23 years. He speaks at high profile industry events and has presented at conferences in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Andrew is passionate about the global role of payments as the first step on the path to financial inclusion.

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