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Election Day Content from Brands: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

By: Kaileigh Woodruff, Lydia Chan, Diminov Boestami, Stephen Milewski and Hana Maeda

“Do we have a right to play here?” is a question that brands should ask themselves when jumping into cultural conversations, namely the 2016 Presidential Election. In the Newhouse in NYC COMM 400 social media class, students are often asked to think about the same question when evaluating brands. Brands can either have a lot to gain or a lot to lose in political or controversial conversations.

We took a closer look at what we saw on the Internet and on social media platforms on Election Day to illustrate things for you. Below you will find some examples of brands that got it right and some brands that should have reconsidered their role in the political conversation a little bit more.

“Best in Class” Examples:

  1. Patagonia’s Election Day Off by Kaileigh Woodruff
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Patagonia.com on November 8, 2016

Patagonia wanted you to get out and vote instead of spending Election Day shopping. In an Adweek article published Tuesday, CEO Rose Marcario speaks about how as a brand, Patagonia has the freedom to take a stand and have an opinion about the election. On November 8, 2016, Patagonia shut down their 29 retail stores and headquarters for the day while also paying their employees and encouraging them to get to the polls and vote. For a brand, Patagonia got it right with taking action and encouraging people to vote.

  1. Royal Jordanian Airline Takes Fight, Not Flight by Lydia Chan
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Royal Jordanian Airline post from their Facebook account on November 8, 2016

This Middle Eastern airline released a very tongue-in-cheek take on the elections. Royal Jordanian Airlines posted this ad on their Facebook page the morning of the elections. As an airline that mostly caters to Muslim customers from Jordan, it makes sense for the brand to voice their opinions on the election as Trump has publicly proposed an outright ban on Muslim immigration into America. However, rather than just posting something along the lines of ‘go vote’ or even taking the low road and poking fun at him, the airline spun the situation to their benefit by promoting their flights to the U.S, as they say “while you’re still allowed to”. It’s also interesting to note that the travel dates are valid until early next year, around the same time the new president would be sworn in but hopefully before any immigration reforms happen.

  1. Corona Breaks Barriers, Not Bottles by Stephen Mikewski
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Screenshot for the Corona short film

The Corona advertisement in Tuesday’s Adweek article took a shot at Donald Trump’s plan for a wall, but more than that, it was a call for Mexicans around the world to break stereotypes and mental barriers and to be who they want to be. The advertisement is set in Mexico City and stars Mexican entertainment star Diego Luna. The advertisement points out how people in the world view Mexicans and how that affects how Mexicans see themselves, so in turn, Corona’s message is for Mexican people to embrace their national spirit, inspire viewers whether they are eight years old or 28 years old, and break barriers to lead to a greater tomorrow.

“This is Awkward” Examples:

  1. Chuck E. Cheese Is Too-Cheesy by Lydia Chan
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Chuck E. Cheese Election Tweet

As a restaurant that host kids’ birthday parties than for its serious political affiliations, Chuck E. Cheese released this image/ad on their Twitter early Tuesday morning. While the brand’s intentions might be good in just trying to encourage people to go out and vote, considering their target demographic is mostly kids (and maybe some parents), it left us scratching our heads. The post also becomes less of a PSA and more of an actual attempt to profit with its not-too-subtle promotion to try out their pizza. It could also be seen like they’re relating the winning pizza to the winning candidate — but picking a pizza is definitely not on the same status as picking the next president.

  1. Crocs’ Election Gif Is Just Painful by Diminov Boestami
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Crocs Election Gif posted to the Crocs Shoes Twitter account

The election tweet from Crocs is awkward because it feels out of place — there is no obvious connection to consumers between the election and Crocs’ products and their brand equity. As a company that produces casual footwear, specifically rubber sandals, it is hard to think of any relation between what the company does and the implications of the election. The disconnect between the brand and election is also unclear in the creative, which names different ‘parties’ where Crocs can be worn. The name ‘Comfort Party’ in this brand-election connection. It gives off the impression that they are trying to ‘ride the wave’ of a time of year where social media conversation is active and widespread.

  1. Ken Bone Has His Own Emoji by Hana Maeda
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IZOD Twitter Page featuring the Ken Bone Emoji

IZOD, most famously known for making viral undecided voter Ken Bone’s red sweater, released a #MyVote2016 twitter campaign alongside an emoji icon of Bone donning the sweater. At first glance, it seems as though the brand is simply encouraging people to vote but still comes across as IZOD using this as an opportunity to sell and promote their product.

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