“The election season offers the opportunity for brands to be relevant in their customers’ lives and engage in the conversation,” said Julie Lando, president of GRIT Marketing Group in York. “It also offers the opportunity to cut through and grab people’s attention.”
As voters head out to the polls Tuesday, they’ll likely see cheeky drink specials, celebratory discounts at retailers or freebies in the the name of the freedom to vote.
To name a few:
So what’s in it for businesses?
A few things, actually.
When brands participate in current events, Lando said, it’s “an additional way to offer a touchpoint and connect with their audience, as well as the ability to make their brand more relevant, approachable and increase engagement.”
Darby Hughes, brand strategy director at Pavone Marketing Group Inc. in Harrisburg, said getting involved is worth it for businesses because Election Day is “a topic that is on almost every single American’s mind.”
“Ride the wave of relevance,” he advised, adding that offering promotions can drive traffic to businesses, which may result in customers coming back again.
Attaching your brand to something that everyone is talking about also is a real opportunity to get public relations coverage, he said. Every year media outlets share stories about who’s offering what, and “a lot of times, those plugs are free.”
When asked to recall a creative special from elections past, both Lando and Hughes mentioned 7-Eleven’s “7-Election” promotion, in which customers cast a vote for their favorite candidate based on the color of cup they select as they purchase a drink. Rutter’s Farm Stores ran a similar promotion this year.
But crafting an appropriate promotion takes some finessing. Brands need to make sure they keep it lighthearted and entertaining, Lando said, so they avoid alienating potential customers.
“Business owners and marketing professionals need to be careful their campaigns do not alienate fans with opposing views,” Lando said. “So keeping the campaigns playful yet neutral is the best approach – particularly in a heated presidential election where emotions run high, the candidates are polarizing and issues controversial.
“At the end of the day, almost everything is political and the businesses need to be aware the words in your ads may be analyzed and/or the stations you pay to run your advertising may speak to your political views/affiliations,” she said.
Hughes recommends looking for a positive, maybe humorous angle. After all, the public has witnessed the serious side of the election every day.
Some businesses treat Election Day as an opportunity to get additional sales or build on their brand, and some are viewing it as a goodwill initiative. Uber and Lyft are offering voters free rides to polling places.
“They’re not going to make any money on Election Day by doing that,” Hughes said. “But hopefully it will pay dividends for them in terms of goodwill for days, weeks or years to come.”