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Brief Published: 17 Aug 2020

Brands Power-Up American Voter Participation


As Americans intensify their focus on the November 2020 presidential election, a growing number of US brands are tapping into the cultural agenda. Pro-voting initiatives put weight behind brands’ social responsibility and Black Lives Matter (BLM) rhetoric, while sidestepping explicit partisanship.

  • Snapchat Eases Gen Z into Civic Engagement: From September, Snapchat will use its new Minis task-completion tool to enable users aged 18+ to register to vote within the app and see what their local ballot will look like, using tools from non-profit voter resource TurboVote. A voter guide is also available for users searching election-related topics. Snapchat’s more basic 2018 campaign resulted in 450,000 users registering to vote, 57% of whom subsequently did.

    In deploying a youth pop culture platform into an information source for more heavyweight issues, the initiative reflects British fashion e-tailer Asos’s insertion of explainers on gay Pride history on TikTok, detailed in Brands Back Pride, 2020.
  • BLM Follow-On Activism: Spurred into action by the BLM protests, US economy apartment-hotel chain Extended Stay America has launched Stay Counted. The initiative drives civic empowerment via designated staff who can answer guests’ questions about registration, and the provision of stamped envelopes for those wanting to mail their registrations. Its employees will get paid time off to vote.

    In June, the chief executive of Dutch social impact chocolatier Tony’s Chocolonely was arrested in Amsterdam for spray-painting pro-BLM graffiti near a slave trader statue. Furthering that activist sentiment, the brand is promoting voter registration online and through a chocolate-dispensing Chocotruck, which features a QR code connecting consumers to voter registration tools. The truck’s journey starts at the March on Washington (August 27-28), commemorating the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

  • Operational Pauses Promote Election Day Participation: Other brands are reprising a trend noted for the 2018 US election: announcing office and/or store closures on Election Day. Efforts are co-ordinated by non-partisan business coalition Time to Vote, formed in 2018, which has enlisted over 600 companies. Signees include Walmart, Nike and J.Crew Group – which plans to close its J.Crew and Madewell stores on November 3 (Election Day), give employees the day off, and launch internal voter-education efforts.

  • Female-Political-Empowerment Product Inspo: American women’s shoe brand Birdies is selling a Vote shoe collection themed around women’s suffrage. Meanwhile, toy brand Mattel’s latest presidential-candidate Barbie is a Black doll – this time packaged with a female campaign manager, fundraiser and voter. The message that “all girls […] can lead from the polls to the podium” is echoed in activity sheets downloadable from the product page, and an episode of popular YouTube series Ask Barbie.

    Earlier this year, US womenswear brand M.M.LaFleur launched a programme giving female political candidates free access to apparel while campaigning – see Feminism-Fuelled Brand Culture.

Watch out for our full Election Activations report, publishing in October.