With the 2020 election fast approaching, corporate America has a unique opportunity. Without taking sides, brands can show their commitment to social impact by promoting two things everyone can get behind: voter registration and voter turnout.
Last year saw the highest voter turnout for a Midterm Election in 100 years, and now the race for the White House will surely lead to record-setting amounts of press coverage and partisan spending. But it’s brands, media companies and technology platforms that truly have the power to reach and mobilize Americans.
And many are already doing it. Whether it falls under cause marketing, government relations or corporate social responsibility, dozens of major companies—from Starbucks to The Gap to Lyft—are promoting civic participation. And with good reason. A Harvard’s Kennedy School study concluded that, for the 2018 Midterm Elections, “companies’ civic engagement strategies not only helped get voters to the polls, but created additional business value.”
Here are a few tips for any company looking to get the vote out in 2020.
Starbucks kicked off a huge effort in 2016 to get all its baristas registered to vote. Then, last year Patagonia teamed up with Levi’s on the “Time to Vote” initiative to get employers to offer paid time off on Election Day. For many big brands, their workforce represents a large audience where they have the most direct influence. But for companies of any size, helping employees vote can be a first step in making voter participation a corporate priority.
Develop original content or integrate an existing message into content
One of the best examples is Vevo’s “Why I Vote” video series from 2016, created with the nonprofit organizations Rock the Vote and Do Something. Rapper Vic Mensa shars chilling stories about his own experiences with police brutality and how they motivated him to vote.
Serve up online voter registration opportunities
The revolution will be clickable, so feature a simple Register to Vote link in a dedicated mass email or at any point of a digital transaction. Thousands of people will register to vote online.
Last year social media giants Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat all built TurboVote voter registration forms into their platforms, and Snap reported that it helped over 400,000 users register to vote. But when it comes to ecommerce, one of the biggest online touchpoints to reach consumers, few have added voter registration into their user flow. Amazon, Ticketmaster, Etsy—what do you say?
Celebrate voting on packaging or apparel
Blue Point Brewing Company made Voters’ Day Off cans calling for Election Day to be a national holiday. American Eagle Outfitters has made fashionable voting T-shirts for years. No matter what’s happening with politics in America, patriotism and democracy never go out of style.
Bake the message into a campaign
Encouraging voter participation is a great way to highlight company values. A great example is a riveting Levi’s spot from the 2018 election, with inspiration provided by the voice of Aretha Franklin.
Incorporate talent and key relationships
If your brand is endorsed by celebrities or influencers or if you’re part of a media company that has on-air talent, ask them to help get the vote out. They’ll deliver earned media, social media shares and resonance with the public. It also makes everyone look and feel good.
Donate media inventory
Watch a show on Hulu or on Xfinity’s on-demand platform, and you might see a voting public service announcement. AMC Theatres movie screens run spots before previews. That’s from either media companies directly providing free advertising inventory or folks like the Ad Council, Crossmedia and the Creative Artists Agency orchestrating donations on a large scale.
Integrate on-site or at events
Tom’s Shoes put voter registration kiosks in their company stores last year. Random House had voter registration drives at book signings by young adult authors. Keen Footwear has a particularly creative approach where they bring old-school phone booths to outdoor festivals so attendees can call Congress to encourage action on environmental issues. As soon as someone completes a call, they’re asked to register to vote.
Financially support a voter mobilization nonprofit
This isn’t just a good deed, it’s good for business. When your budget includes sponsorship or grant dollars for an organization doing non-partisan work, you’ll gain a motivated strategic partner with highly relevant expertise and capabilities. Even modest spending can lead to major impact when invested in democracy.
Incorporate multiple marketing channels
You’d never try to sell a product through just one channel. An effective corporate program requires a fully integrated approach. That means getting the message into advertising, point-of-sale, media outreach, internal communication and all your consumer touchpoints. When brands truly get behind something, the public responds.
The 2020 election will surely be historic, and activity from brands will be pervasive. So don’t get left on the sidelines. No one wants to spend election night thinking, “I should have done more.” You can do plenty, and now is the time to get started.
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