People Want Brands to Heal Nationwide Divisions

By Published On: Oct 15, 20194.1 min read

Seattle, WA, October 9, 2019 –  At the top of the list of what consumers want from brands today, according to Foresight 2020, a national representative study of 2,000 Americans by Seattle agency DNA, is for them to help build common ground and avoid taking sides.

DNA’s Foresight 2020 research study of over 2,000 Americans shows that the overwhelming majority of consumers agree on the importance of many core values and see a number of these shared values as “under threat” today.  When considering the unprecedented political divisiveness that is so pervasive today, it is no surprise people are hoping for brands to build common ground.

“As we look ahead to what is certain to be a divisive political climate in 2020, we saw an opportunity to use data and insights to help marketers and brands create winning strategies for  the year ahead,” explained Alan Brown, CEO and co-founder of DNA. “Just as political candidates are courting independent votes, brands can broaden their relevance to more people by championing common ground than by firmly planting a flag on the side of any single issue or candidate. Staying authentic and doubling down on important shared values may be the best way for brands to add value and bring people together in today’s landmine filled political landscape.”

For starters, our political system and political division is the number one issue facing the country when looking at the combination of what is both important and polarizing.

As people look ahead to 2020, most anticipate things will continue to get worse with only 8% of people disagreeing with the statement that “the election year will further divide and polarize our country.”

“Although there are specific groups of people that will immediately applaud and reward a brand for taking a strong political or societal stance,” explains Christine Wise, Chief Strategy Officer at DNA and leader of the study, “many have a degree of skepticism about  brand activism” with over a third of people surveyed (37%) strongly agreeing that “Too many brands use societal issues as a marketing ploy to sell their product/service.”

Cultivating unity is the number one thing on a list of what people want from brands with 38% stronglyagreeing  “Brands should help build common ground and avoid taking sides.”

According to the survey, DNA sees  an opportunity for brands to be the change people want to see by protecting and projecting shared values especially those that are viewed as most important and under threat today. These values include privacy, preserving the environment, safety, fairness, open-mindedness, independence, compassion, and honesty.

Noted Ms. Wise, “We see rich and fertile ground for brands to advocate around our shared values. DNA has analyzed a large range of values and can guide brands to those that are most important and also seen as most under threat in 2020 based on a wide range of factors. Generation cohorts, where people live, and political affiliation reveal both differences and highlight commonalities that provide a framework for how brands can succeed and drive relevance in 2020.”

Personal Issues Remain More Pressing than Political Issues
As concerning as the state of politics is for many, only 13% of Americans strongly agree that they’re “losing sleep about what is happening now and what lies ahead in 2020.”  This is in part because personal problems are more pressing and political fatigue has already set in:

Improving physical health and improving personal finances top the list of personal priorities  for 2020 across all generations. Younger generations (Gen Z and Millennials) differ from older generations with additional importance placed on advancing their job/career, improving their personal relationships, trying new things, maintaining a sense of balance, and improving their mental health.

In addition, DNA found that brands should consider how their employees feel – not just what their customers feel – about political advocacy. With a tight talent pool, keeping the entire enterprise in mind is vital for companies as 37% of Americans overall would be proud to be employed by a company that publicly advocated in support of causes or issues I care about.

Research methodology
The Foresight for 2020 project is a nationally representative quantitative study of 2,000 Americans, ages 18+. The quantitative survey was fielded in August 2019.  The study examines the current state of American sentiment, the values we hold most dear and those we feel are under threat today, how we perceive the issues of the day, and what we see as the role/responsibility of brands during this unique moment in time. The survey has a margin of error of 2% at a 95% confidence level.  In addition to the quantitative study, Foresight 2020 also includes:

  • Social data intelligence analysis of online conversations leveraging NetBase platform
  • Analysis of political polling and ongoing tracking of US consumer sentiment
  • Case study examples of the intersection of brands and issue-based politics
  • Qualitative interviews with academics and leaders in brand safety

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