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Brief Published: 7 Nov 2018

Voting Promos: Retailers Wade into the US Elections

A host of US retailers seized on America’s mid-term elections as an opportunity to declare a distinctly activist-shaped interest in cultural debate.

Building on the strategic mindset discussed in Brands Take a Stand and Retail’s Activist Brands, which both explain how consumers now actively expect brands to take an ethical stance, a number of approaches were taken:

  • Brand Shutdowns: Acknowledging the need to reflect consumer-facing behaviours in internal brand culture, several retailers staged temporary shutdowns to encourage both shoppers and staff to get out and vote. Some clothing brands kept it non-partisan (ModCloth, The North Face), while others, such as Democrat-backing outdoor label Patagonia, wore their allegiances on their sleeves via website declarations.

    Notably, shutdowns aren’t new – see Renegade Retail for more, including previous backlashes to consumerism fest Black Friday.
  • Slogan Tees Back Pro-Voting Organisations: Several luxury fashion brands including Tory Burch, Prabal Gurung and Carbon38 (activewear) created limited-edition, pro-voting slogan T-shirts. Sales proceeds were donated to institutions such as Rock the Vote and Democracy, whose mission is to rally young and disaffected potential voters. Carbon38 noted the concept increased traffic to its site, affirming an activist stance is a win-win scenario.
  • Anti-Apathy Discounts: Fashion brand Rachel Comey also went non-partisan, creating a “voter appreciation” concept that gave consumers (online and in-store) 24-hour discounts for voting: 10% off for those with a voting confirmation sticker, 20% for those bringing a new voter to the polls, and 30% to those voting in a swing district.
  • Stores Do a Civic Duty: Levi Strauss & Co went further by collaborating with Rock the Vote to install 40 voter-registration booths in Levi’s stores, while Patagonia dedicated part of its website to providing info on candidates and polling station locations to help consumers get to grips with the voting process.

This topic will be explored further in our December 2018 Pop Culture Round-Up.