Nov 5, 2018

Brands Promoting Voter Participation

"I voted" stickers
Brands have been out rocking the vote, without necessarily rocking the boat.

The 2018 midterm elections are finally upon us and, regardless of the outcome, are already a win for democracy, at least in terms of voter turnout. Across the country, early voters are coming out in record numbers (for a midterm election). Experts are forecasting a national turnout rate between 45 and 55 percent, which even at its low end would easily eclipse the record low voting rates of 2014. In some states, where the races are particularly tight, they are approaching presidential election turnout rates (you’d have to go back to the founding of the country to see similar turnout numbers for a midterm election).

Many of the usual factors have been encouraging these high participation rates – political campaign ads, celebrities, and – of course – the general state of politics in this country. But brands have also been participating in the political discourse at a level that hasn’t traditionally been seen. This year many brands have pledged their support to the “Time to Vote” challenge, a nonpartisan effort to increase voter turnout. The challenge has been supported by nearly 150 companies, including Lyft, Patagonia, Walmart, the Gap, Levi’s and Southwest Airlines. Each brand is participating in its own way – from closing store locations across the country so employees can vote (Patagonia) to launching a TV spot encouraging and celebrating voting (Levi’s).

A still from Levi's ad spot with the message "It's your voice. It's your vote". Source: Numerator Advertising
Patagonia stores are closing nationwide on Novermber 6th so employees can vote.
Source: Numerator Advertising

Traditionally, brands and other companies have shied away from controversial issues that could alienate certain consumer segments but recently we’ve seen a shift away from this trend. Despite any potential fallout, more companies seem willing to take a stand on issues that they perceive will support a greater good – just look at Nike’s Kaepernick campaign.

The controversial Nike ad that sparked a national debate – and several sneaker fires. Source: Numerator Advertising

In light of that, taking a stance that encourages voter turnout seems like a no-brainer. The issue is much less controversial than, say, supporting athletes that kneel during the national anthem, and can help a brand appeal to a certain group of consumers (read: young people) without antagonizing others. As noted in our Art of Battling Giants white paper, Millennials in particular prefer to consume brands that stand for something and engage in responsible corporate citizenship. These brands are embracing a reality that Washington doesn’t seem to want to recognize – that young people are the future. Younger consumers have a higher lifetime value for these companies and appealing to them now can secure brand loyalty for an entire generation.