Activism in the Air: Why Brands Are Getting Political

By: Sophie Corfan, Stylus Life Editor

As the world turns its attention to the upcoming U.S. election, prominent brands and figures across the creative industries have been jumping on the political bandwagon over the past few weeks. Brands are increasingly using campaigns to get behind social causes – from LGBTQI pride to female empowerment – gaining traction and respect among politicised consumers.

Remaining neutral while pushing politics, both Snapchat and Doritos have been encouraging their audiences to “Rock the Vote” recently – coinciding with the USA’s National Voter Registration Day (27th September). Snapchat’s initiative reminds users of the importance of voting through its infamous bite-sized videos, before directing them straight to the voter registration website. Meanwhile, Doritos vending machines on college campuses playfully point out that if you’re not registered to vote, you don’t get a choice – giving only tasteless chips to unregistered voters.

Brexit – and the subsequent political turbulence – continues to fill the news in the UK, and this week, a number of designers united over the Brexit Design Manifesto. The document, spearheaded by Max Fraser and Dezeen founder Marcus Fairs, lays out opportunities and challenges for the British design industry in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Signed by an array of design influencers, the manifesto demonstrates how industry leaders are taking the initiative to ensure the stability of their own future.

Fashion brands are also aligning themselves with the causes their customers care about. The Kooples announced that fur would no longer feature in any of its future collections. The decision has been prompted by a PETA campaign and petition signed by 60,000 people, demonstrating a willingness to listen to its audience and adapt accordingly. Monki’s feminist Monkifesto uses humour to attune directly with the core concerns of its young female consumers. The campaign’s catchy slogans –tackling periods, sexuality, cyber-bullying and more – will appear across a capsule collection over the coming months.  

As political and social issues infiltrate so much of the current conversation, it’s no surprise that consumers are expecting brands and influencers to join in – with 74% of US consumers appreciating companies being clear on what they stand for (The Futures Company, 2015). And with value-driven Gen Z and millennial consumers considering their beliefs key to their identity ­– and keen to spend accordingly – this trend is only set to accelerate.

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