Brands need neutrality not cheap laughs to engage consumers this general election

As we head ever closer to this summer’s snap general election, our survey of 500 UK consumers shows that brands may have an important role to play here. But this role is changing… In previous elections, the message to brands was clearly summed up in this marketing week headline from the 2019 election: ‘brands must counteract politics’ negativity’.


Going back further, brands’ overt political (and partisan) mockery was once judged to be a surefire way to engage, illustrated by this Paddy Power outdoor ad at the time.

“When a consumer is presented with a choice between two brands that they perceive as being similar, something as simple as an election gimmick might convince those interested by the political jamboree to choose one over the other.”

Paul Baines, professor of political marketing at Cranfield University, in this article from 2019

What we found

But since then, we’ve seen huge events such as Brexit, Covid and the continuing economic unrest that now mean the political mood has shifted.

Now, almost half think a brand’s role should be to encourage voting in general, without showing any political alignment. In our survey, 85% do not believe brands should support any political party, increasing to over 9 in 10 older voters (55+).

And there’s no longer a place for comic relief either, as only 1 in 7 believe brands should be commenting humorously this election.

“Brands can have more influence than political parties with those not politically aware and can encourage them to find out more and use their vote. Female, 45-54, East Midlands

This sentiment is reflected across different ages, genders and regions. It’s clear the mood has shifted, and consumers no longer appreciate or want brands to simply make them chuckle at politicians’ expense. They now see it as a civic duty for brands to help get the voting public to actively engage with the process.

“Brands have a moral responsibility to encourage people to vote.” Female, 35-44, Scotland

In terms of what sorts of brands should get involved in politics, beyond media outlets (72%) and publishers (58%), it’s telcos, utilities and travel brands that have the approval of 50% of voters. More than half feel supermarkets (56%), car makers (58%) and food brands (65%) should not get involved this election.

Finally, for those brands that do seek to connect with voters, social media is the channel that engages most, 45% would expect brands to comment here vs TV, radio or online ads which is only favoured by 1 in 3.


In summary, while the mood of the nation may appear tense, offering a humorous take on electoral proceedings no longer delivers a clear route to engagement.

Brands that can position themselves to be not on the side of any one party, but in support of democracy by encouraging consumers to vote, will build positive sentiment with consumers today.

“Promoting inclusive voting rights allows brands to establish genuine consumer connections which plays an important role in our nation’s future.” Female, 45-54, North East


John Horgan

Senior Insight Director

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