When your yogurt tells you to vote

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Jean-François Bélanger (access the author's page)

A strange surprise awaits me at lunch. An invitation, almost an injunction, in huge letters on my yogurt pot: "Vote on November 3".

Difficult to escape it.

Even without opening a newspaper or turning on the TV, it is next to impossible in the United States today to ignore the November 3 election. The reminders are everywhere. They take the form, for example, of banners on my smartphone, to encourage me to register to vote and to explain how to vote in advance.

It also seems impossible to shop online without being bombarded with messages inviting you to fulfill your civic duty. I quickly realize this when I try to buy myself a cashmere sweater.

From Levi Strauss to Nike to Tommy Hilfiger and Patagonia, the big clothing brands have obviously set out to do everything they can to get Americans to vote en masse.

Entice people

Determined to find out more about my yogurt pot, so I visit the website of the brand that makes it, Forager Project. I am greeted by an imperative message which fills the screen in big colored letters on a black background: <q data-attributes = '{"lang": {"value": "fr", "label": "Français", "data": {"id": "fr", "name": "Français"}}, "value": {"html": "Cultivate democracy, vote 3November! "," text ":" Cultivate democracy, vote on November 3! "}} 'lang =" fr”>Cultivate democracy, vote on November 3! I note a clear insistence on trying to convince us that probiotics, in addition to improving intestinal transit, also promote democracy.

It all started in the summer, at a Zoom meeting where Forager Project employees raised concerns about the low turnout of young people in elections, tells me Maude Manoukian, social media manager for the company. Since millennials are the main buyers of this California organic brand, the idea of ​​apostrophizing customers to get them to vote came naturally to this one.

Our goal is to encourage people to participate in the electoral process. We believe that a healthy democracy requires the involvement of everyone.

Maude Manoukian, Forager Project

The site directs Internet users to an organization called Rock the Vote. He is a pioneer in civic duty education. <q data-attributes = '{"lang": {"value": "fr", "label": "Français"}, "value": {"html": "We started, in the years90, to sensitize young people to the importance of voting. At the time, it was mostly through partnerships with MTV, with artists and record companies "," text ":" We started in the 90s to educate young people about the importance of voting. At the time, it was mainly through partnerships with MTV, with artists and record companies "}} 'lang =" en”>We began in the 90s to educate young people about the importance of voting. At the time, it was mainly through partnerships with MTV, with artists and record companies, explains Mindy Maschmeyer, vice president, marketing manager at Rock the Vote. She tells me that everything took on a whole new dimension a little over a year ago, when the organization created the Brands for Democracy program.

Photomontage showing the names of several companies that encourage people to vote on November 3.

Many companies are part of the movement to encourage Americans to vote.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Photomontage / Jean-François Bélanger

Anti-racist and civic commitment

Businesses approached us asking how we could strengthen our democracy. Brands with a young clientele, such as Foot Locker, Nike, Hulu or Gap, she explains, adding that she was quickly overwhelmed by the craze. She said the rally for racial justice that began in the spring after African-American George Floyd died under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis was a turning point. The tragedy, she tells me, has made many companies question their civic duty.

Some brands, like Eddie Bauer and Patagonia, have made an anti-racist profession of faith. The Everlane brand launched the collection 100 % Human to bring people together in this time of great division and to promote human rights. Human rights have always been at the heart of our mission, Franchesca Hashim, Marketing Director of Everlane tells me. From the start, the ready-to-wear brand has been promoting its ethical and transparent side. So it was only natural, the leader explains to me, that it was decided to do everything to increase the turnout in the election.

Our entire team believes passionately in the importance of the right to vote. And we are convinced that democracy works best when everyone participates.

Franchesca Hashim, Marketing Director, Everlane

This is an election like no other, and the stakes are high, she told me. The company therefore launched the initiative Beyond the Vote to encourage its customers to get involved in the democratic process and to get involved beyond the simple fact of placing their ballot in the ballot box.

Old Navy goes one step further and pays its employees to go and work at the polls on election day. Every voice counts and deserves to be heard, says the president of this ready-to-wear collection. Old Navy has allied with Microsoft, Starbucks, Ben & Jerry's and over 500 other companies united under the banner Civic Alliance to commit to recruiting a quarter of a million tellers to ensure that all polling stations can open as scheduled on November 3.

Give time off to vote

Another initiative, Time to Vote – launched by Patagonia, Paypal and Levi Strauss – aims to encourage business owners to release their employees during their workday to allow them to vote. Because in the United States, unlike Canada, it is not an obligation of the employer.

To date, more than 1,700 companies have joined the movement. From Walmart to Coca-Cola to Kraft and Unilever, all have pledged to give their employees paid leave, ranging from two hours to a full day, to their employees on polling day. Patagonia and J. Crew will close all their stores and distribution centers on November 3. Uber and Lyft, finally, have decided to offer a discount to customers who use their services to get to the polling station.

To be or not to be a partisan

All of these companies are careful not to take a position on the political spectrum, however. The organization Rock the Vote insists on the non-partisan side of its mission. Because, for a brand, supporting a camp, be it Democrat or Republican, involves the risk of alienating some of its clientele. The message must be unifying.

But Patagonia doesn't care. This outerwear manufacturer made headlines recently by adding an unmistakable message on the label of its short pants: <q data-attributes = '{"lang": {"value": "fr", "label ":" French "}," value ": {" html ":"Vote the assholes out"," text ":" Vote the assholes out "}} 'lang =" fr”>Vote the assholes out, which can be translated as Vote to fuck the assholes ….

Close-up of a label on short pants that read "Vote the assholes out".

Patagonia's campaign was a huge success.

Photo: Patagonia

The provocative intention is assumed. It functionedJohn Huggins of the Patagonia Marketing team laughs to me. The initiative quickly went viral on social media, and all of the cropped pants produced with this label sold out in record time. The c-holes in question, he explains to me, are all the politicians who do not believe in climate change and who do not do what is necessary to limit its consequences.

It is the founder of the Californian company, Yvon Chouinard, an American of Quebec origin, that we owe the expression. Patagonia, Huggins tells me, was founded by rock climbing enthusiasts, and the preservation of the planet has always been at the heart of the company.

We quickly understood that when we care about the environment, it is essential to vote. And very early on, we set out to use all the marketing tools at our disposal to encourage our customers to fulfill their civic duty.

John Huggins, Patagonia

The brand's website and storefronts now feature a watered-down but more explanatory version of the message <q data-attributes = '{"lang": {"value": "fr", "label": "Français"}, " value ": {" html ":"Climate Deniers Out Vote"," text ":" Vote Climate Deniers Out "}} 'lang =" en”>Climate Deniers Out Vote, which can be translated by Vote against climate deniers. We are in business to save our planetJohn Huggins told me. We would prefer not to have to get involved in politics, it would be easier, but to save our planet, we need to elect people who will put in place the policies necessary to manage the climate crisis.

Good for branding

This position has earned the brand some negative reactions from customers; some customers have said they are shocked and have asked Patagonia to stop playing politics. But overall, John Huggins tells me, the fallout is very positive. It must be said that the brand has always displayed its green positions and that its clientele is rather progressive.

Without questioning the sincerity of the commitment of these brands to defend and promote democracy, it seems obvious, however, that the gesture is not entirely selfless. Mindy Maschmeyer, from Brands for Democracy, admits: it pays off in 2020 for brands targeting young customers to present themselves as good corporate citizens. This contributes very positively to their brand image.

As the saying goes, no one can be against virtue… nor against democracy… nor against organic yogurts.

Read also :

  • Trump and Biden battle for Florida, quintessential hub state
  • Will Republicans be successful in closing the advance polling gap?


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