How the 2016 Presidential Race May Change Brand Communications

election-20161Brand communicators seek to influence the undecided and convince them of the value of the product or service they're representing. They try to accomplish this through third-party media coverage, the sharing of their own content and community engagement.

Once upon a time, politicians sought the same end and used similar means.

Things have changed. Largely driven by media brands that have profited by playing to narrow niches of the population, the game of politics is now polarized in the extreme. Politicians can survive only by adapting to or exploiting these media-driven niches.  They must play to the already decided, delivering points of view that are already held and content that has been predigested. This has been the case in the U.S. the entirely of this century, and the intense 2016 presidential race has only widened the divide.

The polarization is deeply embedded in the American psyche, a reality brands must accept and deal with. It affects them beyond the hot-button political issues of the day—immigration, race, gender identity, climate change, for instance—that they have to either tiptoe around or address head-on. The polarization affects the way our minds now function and speaks to the question of how to convince the undecided of anything when, for so many of us, our minds are already made up.

If brands, like politicians, are to survive in this climate, we may see them come to the realization that the most practical way to expend communications resources is to focus on those people who already have a positive connection with a particular brand. Rewarding brand loyalty may breed its own growth. Winning friends and influencing strangers may have to wait until the next decade.

—Steve Goldstein, editorial director, PR News @SGoldsteinAI