Divisive election is an open invitation for brands to take the lead

As the divisive 2020 election shows politics continuing to fracture, brands are stepping in to solve America's most pressing societal issues.

This week’s presidential debate hardly reflected the seriousness of what Americans are grappling with right now, from racial injustice to climate change and the public health crisis.

While the candidates appeared more concerned with getting a word in edgewise, brands are stepping up to help solve the very real challenges at hand. 

Patagonia and REI, for example, were two of the first major brands to join the Facebook ad boycott this summer to protest the spread of misinformation. Both companies have long advocated for action on climate change and environmental responsibility.

Procter & Gamble recently launched a campaign in its home state of Ohio to encourage people to wear masks. The CPG giant has committed to reduce greenhouse gases by 50% and use 100% renewable electricity in all of its plants by 2030.

Even Big Tech, for all of its problems, is taking action on societal issues. Apple is taking on inequities in the supply chain by requiring safe and respectful working conditions and environmentally responsible practices. And Amazon has committed to powering operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025 with a goal to become net zero carbon by 2040. 

The Public Looks for Leadership

This election cycle has made it clear that we’re seeing more leadership from corporate America than we are from our elected officials.

People are looking for help making sense of the world, and they’re no longer turning to journalists or politicians as the media rapidly becomes as partisan as our political leaders. A majority of Republicans trust FOX, but less than 15% of Democrats find the network credible, and almost the same ratio is true for Democrats and CNN.

Yet more than 60% of consumers are belief-driven buyers who want brands they shop with to deliver on societal issues. Many brands are responding to this call to action with leadership that’s not confined to a partisan base. Apple’s iOS enjoys a nearly identical market share in blue and red states, at 70% and 67%, respectively. 

Brands Offer a Way Forward

It’s fair criticism to say that corporations are not responsible for divisive issues like healthcare legislation, national defense or even protecting the environment. But, in reality, they are.

These companies extend healthcare coverage to millions of employees. They are developing sustainable environmental policies that have a direct impact on the survival of our planet. And now, they’re stepping in to provide leadership that our government does not seem capable of. 

We don’t know who will win in November, but we do know that regardless of the outcome, America will be facing a horrible emotional hangover as a direct result of our politics, divisiveness and mistrust. In this fallout, I see brands like Patagonia, REI, P&G, and so many others providing a way forward and helping America cope. Consequently, they are attracting lots of customers as we all long for competent leadership and a healthy future. 

Over the next 30+ days, and for the rest of the year, I encourage brands to remind us that it’s great to be American. We are looking for leadership, and brands are stepping up to the plate. 

Barry Lowenthal is CEO of Media Kitchen

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