It’s Election Day! Hopefully you’ve already voted or have plans to do so after work, so we can turn our attention to less important things…like rolling our eyes at terrible election-related campaigns.
Every four years, brands deck themselves in red, white and blue to try to shine some of the election spotlight on their products and services. Now, not all these promotions are terrible. In fact, I’ve found a few below that are creative, fun and find a natural tie to the electoral process. However, many others either have the flimsiest of connections to the election or, even worse, mock or stupify one of our most important duties as American citizens.
I’ve pulled together some of the election-themed campaigns running this year and have ranked them on a scale from lame to red, white and awesome. Check out the candidates, and then make your voice heard in the comments!
Boston Market’s Market Bowl Poll
One of the most common types of election-themed promotions: vote for Product A or Product B! Except I’m willing to bet even less people know or care about what’s in these Market Bowls than can name all the Supreme Court justices. The microsite is well done, but the overall idea is a big snooze. If you vote for a bowl, nothing even happens—you’re just encouraged to campaign for your favorite bowl on Facebook or Twitter, which is a great idea if you’re trying to pare down your list of Facebook friends.
JetBlue Election Protection 2012
“If Candidate X wins the election, I’m leaving the country.” This is usually an empty threat, but JetBlue can help you follow through on your angry immigration! Visit the Election Protection microsite, and tell JetBlue which party you’re voting for. Then, you can select the Caribbean paradise you’d like to escape to if things don’t go your way.
This promotion works because it fits the brand and pokes fun at our blowhard tendencies—not the serious business of picking a President.
Cabbage Patch Candidates
In honor of the presidential election, Cabbage Patch has created tiny, plush versions of all the candidates, plus First Lady Michelle Obama. The dolls are more creepy than cute, and if you want to bid on one it will set you back at least a couple hundred dollars. But because the auction benefits Rock the Vote, and because they chose to include my imaginary best friend Michelle, I give this campaign one thumb up.
I Voted! sticker
Cheetos Commander in Cheese
You know where the candidates stand on foreign policy, health care and the economy…but who would look better if he was made out of junk food? Chester Cheetah, never afraid to ask the tough questions, had Facebook fans “Vote 4 The Big Cheese” based on which candidate’s Cheeto portrait they liked better. This is a silly campaign, but more importantly—this is a waste of Cheetos!
Pizza Hut Debatebombing
One day, the Pizza Hut marketing team was brainstorming ideas for how to get people to care about their mediocre to bad pizza, and someone said, “Hey! Why don’t we hijack one of the presidential debates?”
Yeah, Pizza Hut decided it would be appropriate to try to promote their product during a presidential debate by offering free pizza for life to any debate attendee who would ask the candidates if they preferred sausage or pepperoni.
This is an actual statement from Pizza Hut’s CMO, Kurt Kane: “We recognize there are a lot of serious issues to be debated, but we also know a lot less serious— but no less important— ones are being discussed every night inside houses across the country. So for the candidates to be able to show that they’re in tune with all the issues, we felt a pizza-related question on behalf of The Pizza Party was very appropriate for a town hall debate.”
I know this clip gets used a lot, but I feel it’s the only appropriate response here.
There was an immediate backlash. Pizza Hut was forced to change the promotional stunt to a contest, where people could vote online for pepperoni or sausage. Very lame, but at least not a mockery of the democratic process.
Pizza Hut could learn a lesson or two from this promotion. Don’t try to steal the spotlight or make quarter-assed connections between your brand and the election. Just give people a chance to express themselves—after all, that’s what this election madness is all about.
7-Eleven’s campaign, called 7-Election, is simple. They offer two cups: one for Obama, one for Romney. 7-Eleven shoppers pick the cup for the candidate they like best. I love it because it’s all about the customer, not shamelessly selling a product, but still has a real connection to the brand. (I have often been paralyzed by the sheer amount of coffee choices available at 7-Eleven. There’s like six kinds of coffee in there and a dozen creamer types!)
7-Eleven tracks the popularity of the two cups, turning them into piping-hot polling devices. In 2008, the cups correctly predicted that Obama would win the election. As of this writing, 7-Election shows Obama in the lead again. We’ll have to wait to see if the cups are right twice, but the votes are already in on this campaign, and it’s a winner.
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