Americans Oppose Companies Using Issues to Promote Their Brand

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At the top of the list of what consumers want from brands today, is for them to promote common ground and avoid taking sides. This goal was clearly seen in Foresight 2020, a national representative study of 2,000 Americans by Seattle agency DNA.

The research of Foresight 2020 shows that the majority of consumers agree on the importance of many core values and see a number of these shared values as “under threat” today. When people consider the unprecedented political divisiveness that is so pervasive today, it should be no surprise people are hoping for brands to build common ground.

“As we look ahead to what is certain to be a highly-charged political climate in 2020, we saw an opportunity to use data and insights to help marketers and brands create winning strategies for  the year ahead,” explained Alan Brown, CEO and co-founder of DNA. “Just as political candidates are courting independent votes, brands can broaden their relevance to more people by championing common ground than by firmly planting a flag on the side of any single issue or candidate. Staying authentic and doubling down on important shared values may be the best way for brands to add value and bring people together in today’s landmine filled political landscape.”

For one thing, our political system and political division is the number one issue facing the country when looking at the combination of what is both important and polarizing.

As people look ahead to elections of 2020, most believe things will continue to get worse with a mere 8% of people disagreeing with the statement that “the election year will further divide and polarize our country.”

“Although there are specific groups of people that will immediately applaud and reward a brand for taking a strong political or societal stance,” stated Christine Wise, Chief Strategy Officer at DNA and leader of the study, “many have a degree of skepticism about  brand activism with 53% agreeing that ‘Too many brands use societal issues as a marketing ploy to sell their product/service.'”

Cultivating unity is the number one thing on a list of what people want from brands with 54% agreeing “Brands should help build common ground and avoid taking sides.”

According to the survey, DNA sees  an opportunity for brands to be the change people want to see by protecting and projecting shared values especially those that are viewed as most important and under threat today. These values according to the survey, “include privacy, preserving the environment, safety, fairness, open-mindedness, independence, compassion, and honesty.”

Noted Ms. Wise, “We see rich and fertile ground for brands to advocate around our shared values. DNA has analyzed a large range of values and can guide brands to those that are most important and also seen as most under threat in 2020 based on a wide range of factors. Generation cohorts, where people live, and political affiliation reveal both differences and highlight commonalities that provide a framework for how brands can succeed and drive relevance in 2020.”


Personal Issues Remain More Pressing than Political Issues

As concerning as the state of politics is for many, only 13% of Americans strongly agree that they’re “losing sleep about what is happening now and what lies ahead in 2020.”  This is in part because personal problems are more pressing and political fatigue has already set in: (See jpg)

Improving physical health and improving personal finances top the list of personal priorities  for 2020 across all generations. Younger generations (Gen Z and Millennials) differ from older generations with additional importance placed on advancing their job/career, improving their personal relationships, trying new things, maintaining a sense of balance, and improving their mental health.

In addition, DNA found that brands should consider how their employees feel – not just what their customers feel – about political advocacy. With a tight talent pool, keeping the entire enterprise in mind is vital for companies as 37% of Americans overall would be proud to be employed by a company that publicly advocated in support of causes or issues I care about.

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