On Tuesday, I spoke on a panel at the Chicago Interactive Marketing Association. The topic was, “How do marketers understand and navigate the new political landscape?

Photo credit: FabPhotoChicago © CIMA

Indeed, in a world where populist values are driving unexpected electoral outcomes (albeit anchored in one universal truth), this question has never been more prescient.

Recently we’ve seen how sentiment is negatively impacted by Trump tweets regardless of if the brand is mentioned favorably.

And we’ve seen brands face boycotts for appearing on or pulling ads from extreme political content.

In fact, we noticed a spike in our website traffic was on May 3 when people were looking for lists of brands that advertise on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert after an inflammatory monologue.

Apparently this hot fact from 2015 is the #1 result on Google for “Colbert advertisers.”

So how can brands prepare for something like this? And what should you do when it happens?

These days the political climate is so emotionally charged. Typically emotion is exactly what we want to attach to our brands. But in today’s world, no matter what position you take you are likely to offend half the population.

For some brands, taking a stand may be a worthwhile tactic as you will ingratiate yourself to those that passionately support your positon. You just have to be ok with never getting any business from the other half that will hate you.

For brands that seek wider appeal and can’t afford to alienate major audiences, it’s best to steer completely clear of politics and don’t engage even if drawn in.

Regardless which side of the fence you’re on, it’s always wise to heed the words of Winston Churchill:

“You are the master of your unspoken words, but a slave to the words you have spoken.”

Or you can just heed my advice:

If you don’t have anything nice to say… use an emoji. 

Now enjoy the spoken written word of 4C’s Insights…

Read the rest of 4C’s Insights Volume 56 here.

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