Joining conversations about current events can be a polarizing marketing strategy for brands. When done tastefully, these pieces of content are applauded by the media and well-received by consumers. If there’s any minor misstep or oversight, it might look like you’re favoring one side over the other which can result in nothing less than a PR nightmare.

What does it mean for brands hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the 2016 U.S. presidential election — one of the most heated and bizarre elections in years?

Joining the conversation comes with lots of risks. The last thing any marketer wants to do is start an impassioned debate among their fans, or even worse – end up having to issue an apology for a distasteful piece of content. Still, several brands think it’s a risk worth taking. Here are three examples of companies in different verticals who are running election-focused marketing campaigns this year — and seeing success.

1. Bud Light

Bud Light launched its Bud Light Party campaign during the Super Bowl with comedians Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen as two politicians leading America into the light. The brand did not directly address the topic of the current election, but the campaign playfully acknowledges that 2016 is an election year.

The concept was clever. By using #BudLightParty as its hashtag, the brand was able to make a play on political speak and stay true to the party vibe it conveys to fans — without alienating die-hard politicos on either side. Bud Light even went above and beyond over the summer, with a “Convention” tour, making fun stops throughout the U.S. to help fans celebrate the #BudLightParty.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BDzGKZuBQxC/?taken-by=budlight

Why it works: Instead of bringing up the topics and candidates at hand (boring for a beer brand), Bud Light went for funny, lighthearted political humor at the moment it’s top-of-mind for most Americans.

2. Jeep

Jeep is taking a more emotional approach. In its latest YouTube video/ad, the car brand splits the screen in half – depicting two different vehicles or “political views.” Throughout the video, the driver of one vehicle goes into a BBQ joint, while a passenger from the other goes into a vegetarian food spot; one car dons an “I ❤ Animals” bumper sticker, while the other displays “I’d Rather Be Hunting.”

The final shot shows the two opposing vehicles, one with a Republican bumper sticker, and the other with a Democrat sticker. The text overlay clearly lays out the message Jeep is trying to express: “What unites us is stronger than what divides us.”

Why it works: While Jeep recognizes that everyone has their differences, which we tend to express more than ever during an election year, the video pushes people to think about what unites us all. Without choosing sides in the election, Jeep is tugging on consumers’ heartstrings and urging everyone to think about the things we have in common.

3. American Eagle Outfitters

American Eagle Outfitters is using its Instagram feed to enter the election conversation in a way that will resonate with its core demographic.

The brand has released a line of products that are U.S. and voting focused, and is highlighting them in #ootd shots, in photos with celebrities and other intriguing pieces of content. In captions, American Eagle is urging its fans to “Rock the Vote” by registering for the November election. The brand is also promoting its campaign with #WeAllCan ‒ a message of encouragement to young adults who might not think their voice matters.

american-eagle

Why it works: The brand isn’t promoting a candidate or platform, but it’s inspiring young adults to wear their pride for the U.S., and to let their voices be heard on Election Day.

Decision 2016

There’s no right or wrong answer on whether your brand should join the conversation, but if you decide to create a campaign focused around the election, tread carefully:

  • Don’t pick sides. Duh! Red or blue, everybody’s money is green. Unless your brand is somehow affiliated with a particular candidate or political party, it’s best to stay neutral. Otherwise, your company will forever be associated with whichever way you lean.
  • Stay away from controversial issues. The last thing you want is for your social post to become a forum for debate among your fan base. Avoiding touchy subjects will keep the engagement lighthearted.
  • Review, review, review. Having several team members (and maybe even some consumers) take a look at the campaign before it goes live is a great way to ensure you’re on the right track.

Whether you elect to capitalize on the election or not, you better make sure your creative assets are on point. To produce content that will resonate, take a tip or two from the experts themselves. Download “25 Top Tips from Instagram Influencers” to learn how you can create images that inspire your consumers to elect your brand.