A few months back we wrote about the rise of the activist consumer—and how they’ve pushed brands in recent years to promote their values publicly. Earlier this year we saw this display in full effect after the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a white police officer, and the ensuing nationwide protests over racial discrimination.
Numerous prominent brands, including Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Citi, Nike, Salesforce, Slack, Twitter and Verizon, all put out content condemning the killing—and many backed up their words by making donations to social justice organizations and pledging to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within their own organizations.
Given these actions, it’s no surprise that many brands have decided to invest in “get out the vote” campaigns with the 2020 presidential election fast approaching. Like every citizen of this country, brands have a lot at stake this November amid an ongoing pandemic, economic recession, and renewed public interest in climate change and racial injustice.
But, as Harvard Business Review wrote last year, “Get Out The Vote” campaigns can also help raise brand awareness, strengthen relationships with employees and shareholders, and open dialogue with elected officials. In 2018 Edelman reported that consumers are more loyal to brands that take a stand on issues they care about—and while some issues are hyper-partisan, consumers on both sides of the political spectrum respond positively to pro-vote messaging.
But as is the case with any marketing tactic, execution is imperative—especially when dealing with matters related to politics and civic engagement.
If your brand is investing in a “Get Out The Vote” initiative this election season, here are a few brands you may want to look to for inspiration on how to get it right.
This isn’t the first time we’ve written about Patagonia taking a stand for the causes they believe in—and it probably won’t be the last.
Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard has been an advocate for environmental protection for years. In 2002, he founded 1% For The Planet, a community that advocates for environmental protections through annual membership and everyday actions.
As part of his activism, this year Patagonia stitched a not-so-subtle message onto the newest line of Patagonia’s men’s and women’s shorts: “Vote the assholes out.”
The tag refers to politicians who don't take action on the current climate crisis.
Patagonia is also a founding member of Time to Vote—a coalition of businesses that aim to improve voter turnout during elections by giving employees access to, and information about early voting or vote-by-mail options, offering paid time off on Election Day, or making it a day without meetings. Knotch is a member of Time to Vote too.
As such, Patagonia will close its headquarters and retail stores on Election Day to encourage its employees to vote and serve as poll workers. It’s also partnering with a handful of nonprofits across the country to share information with consumers about voting and sharing additional information on how to vote on their website.
Lastly, Patagonia recently released a new film called “Public Trust,” about fighting for the protection of public lands. The film is the latest addition to Patagonia’s highly successful content hub.
Etsy has dedicated an entire section of their website to voting-themed merchandise. Through Etsy you can purchase everything from voter-themed necklaces and facemasks, to earrings and posters.
This year Etsy has also teamed up with Civic Alliance, a coalition of over 350 businesses that aim to improve voter turnout by encouraging employees and customers to participate in civic life. As members of Civic Alliance, Etsy is recruiting employees to serve as poll workers on Election Day and donating protective equipment to poll workers from the Etsy store.
Media giant ViacomCBS and The Ad Council recently launched a campaign called “Vote For Your Life,” designed to encourage individuals to request their mail-in ballots through TV and digital ads. They also launched a microsite (voteforyourlife.com) where users can check their registration status and learn how to register.
“This election isn’t just about choosing a president. It's about choosing local leaders who have a more direct impact on your community, your family, and your life,” it reads on the Vote For Your Life website. “That’s why we’ve made it as easy as possible for you to get ready to vote.”
The Vote For Your Life campaign is primarily targeted at young people, and is being promoted across all Viacom properties, including CBS, MTV, and Comedy Central.
One of the more salacious voting campaigns comes from dating site OkCupid. In September they began allowing users to place “Voter” badges on their profiles to show other potential matches that they are politically active.
OkCupid is also trying to popularize the acronym VILFs (voters I’d like to…you get the idea) by providing “VILF kits” to influencers featuring lawn signs, t-shirts, condoms and more.
But the most creative aspect of their voting campaign is the unique data they’re gathering from their users. On their website, they’ve created interactive reports that relate voting to dating success. Here are a few of the more interesting findings:
- Registered voters are 63% more likely to get a match.
- 76% of OkCupid respondents said how their date leans politically is very important to them.
- Registered voters don’t find jealousy in a relationship healthy.
This type of unique content not only draws attention to the importance of voting, but provides users with interesting and helpful information, which is often the best form of content marketing.
Through a partnership with TurboVote, Snap Inc. has made it possible for users to register to vote and cast their ballot directly from the Snapchat app.
At the end of September, Variety reported that Snap’s efforts have already helped 750,000 voters register. Snap Inc. has also partnered with major celebrities, including Barack Obama, Snoop Dogg and Arnold Schwarzenegger to produce public service announcements (PSAs) to encourage users to vote—as well as a handful of in-app mini-series centered around social justice and civic engagement.
Snap has also updated their in-app experience to surface a voter guide when users search for topics related to voting. Going forward, Snapchat plans to send all users a notification to encourage them to register to vote on the day of their 18th birthday.
“This is the first election that Gen Z will be casting votes for president,” said Sean Mills, Head of Content for Snap, according to Variety. “We believe the young voters will be the difference makers.”
Reddit is known as a platform where users can upvote or downvote things they like and dislike. Now Reddit is hoping its users will apply that mentality to the upcoming election.
Reddit recently launched their “Up The Vote” campaign, which almost shames users into registering to vote.
“Content on Reddit receives an average of 165 million votes per day. But did you know that the 2016 presidential election only saw 140.1 million votes, representing just 63% of eligible voters?” Reddit shared on their website. “Numbers like these are why we are launching our Up the Vote initiative, an effort to get redditors to vote where it matters most: at the ballot box.”
Reddit says the campaign will focus on “alerting, educating, and activating redditors on their right to vote.”
Reddit will also be hosting a series of ask me anythings (AMAs) leading up to the election to provide users with information on how to vote early.
Through a partnership with Rock The Vote, Foot Locker has converted 2,000 retail locations into voter registration sites in an effort to get young people to participate in the upcoming election.
Users can also register to vote through the Foot Locker website, or check to see if they’re currently registered. On Election Day, Foot Locker is pledging to provide flexible hours to encourage its 30,000 employees to head to the polls.
These campaigns are excellent examples of how brands can encourage civic engagement this election. If your brand wants to encourage people to get out and vote, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Make it about participation: With politics as polarizing as they are today, you don’t want to alienate anyone—including your own employees—by sending a message that encourages them to vote for one candidate over another. The goal of the campaign should simply be to encourage people to participate, regardless of what their politics are.
- You can start small: Many of the large brands we showcased are investing a lot of time and money into their “Get Out The Vote” campaigns—but you don’t have to. Simply encouraging your own employees to take time to vote can boost employee morale and brand perception.
- Stay on brand: Patagonia cares about the environment—so they crafted a campaign around voting against candidates who don’t address climate change. This is a good example of how to stay true to your brand values while also encouraging civic participation. The look, feel, and style of your pro-vote campaign needs to be consistent with your brand voice—otherwise it could come off as insincere.
- Use content creatively: There are lots of different ways to use content to encourage voting. Reddit’s HOSTING AMAs, OkCupid’s data-driven reports, and Patagonia filmed an entire documentary. Your brand can leverage content too in a way that remains true to your brand to get out the vote.
One final thought: Every citizen has a responsibility to participate in our democracy by exercising their right to vote. And if that’s the case, brands who carry vast amounts of influence also have a responsibility to get people to the polls.
Will your brand answer that call? Learn more about what Knotch is doing related to the election.