Featured in Forbes: How Politics Influences Branding

Resonate Featured in Forbes

The article below appeared in Forbes on September 13, 2022. Read it in its entirety here  and download the latest Current Events and Emerging Trends Report.

According to a study recently released by consumer intelligence company Resonate, 46% of consumers are slightly, moderately or much more likely to buy from a brand that supports Ukraine in its war against Russia.

It might make you wonder: What does support for Ukraine have to do with shirts or shoes you might buy?

It turns out, a lot. And it’s not just about Ukraine, it’s a lot of issues. According to the Resonate report, political positions that align with consumers’ values will enhance the likelihood of a product sale for almost any kind of product. As a rule, consumers are most encouraged to purchase by left-leaning political positions although there are exceptions. 33% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands that show support for pro-choice groups or the right to a legal abortion. 36% are less likely to purchase from a pro-life brand.

Consumers with more right-leaning beliefs are more likely to ignore brands’ political or social positions.

What Should Brands Do

When consumers see their positions align with a brand it strengthens their identity with that brand and they are more likely to tell their friends about it in person or on social media. Consumers are also more willing to pay full price when their personal interests align with a brand’s. It means that identifying consumers who share a brand’s true, fundamental beliefs, enhance profitability.

With that kind of result and the hard data from the Resonate report, it’s compelling for brands to assume that advocating for left-of-center political positions will always be the right strategy.

That’s logical but wrong because in addition to a brand’s politics, consumers value truth and authenticity. They don’t want to see a positions or causes slapped on as an afterthought, consumers want to know brands’ true positions and values. A consumer will say to themselves, if a brand is fake about its beliefs, there’s a chance the product is not everything they say it is either.

Younger consumers are particularly sensitive to brands’ integrity on issues and truthfulness. There’s even a term for it – greenwashing – when brands fake their sincerity for their environmental concerns.

Felicia Kane and Carly Berns of Berns Communications Group manage a panel called the Z Suite. It’s a group of 29 Gen Z consumers that help brands understand how younger consumers think. Berns told me, “If a brand claims to have a certain set of values and then they break their promises or they’re slow to engage with those consumers, consumers are ready to move on in one second. They don’t wait for you to fulfill your promise, there are a million other brands out there.”

The Other Side

Just because the market is more sensitive to left-leaning politics and social causes, it doesn’t mean there’s no opportunity for brands to target conservative consumers. The Resonate study says that a portion of consumers, usually 10-15 percentage points lower than the left-leaning market, has a higher propensity to purchase if a brand has right-leaning positions. And because there are more companies with liberal positions than conservative ones, there’s an opportunity for brands that lean right to take advantage of that opportunity in the market.

What we consistently see now for middle-market brands of $300 million in size or less is that their best customers are superfans who look very much alike demographically. They share habits, education levels and lifestyles.

When a brand is able to identify its superfan market, it is usually narrow and deep. Marketing to just those superfans and their demographic/socioeconomic look-alikes is much more cost-effective. With customer acquisition costs steadily rising as they have been, it becomes critical to profitability tor brands to understand who the customer really is and to market heavily to consumers who fit the model.

A brand whose values are truly part of its culture has an opportunity to be heard by a specific audience. If the communication is effective, it will enhance sales and margins and reduce marketing costs because the relevant consumers become evangelists for the brand. In that way, politics has become a tool to enhance profitability.

Finding your market and telling them your truth sounds simple. But like most things, the concept is easy but executing it is a lot harder. Consumers now have an identity that is also political and when brands reach consumers in a way that corresponds to their personal views, it’s motivating to those consumers and it creates brand affiliation. Consumers are more likely to be in all in for a brand that shares its views and that means profitability follows inevitably.

Download the latest Current Events and Emerging Trends Report.

Article by: Richard Kestenbaum 

Categorized as: News & Press, In the News

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