Will Rowe
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How drinks brands are swaying public opinion on politics

Early adopters, those consumers who are some of the first to pick up on new trends, are no longer sitting on the fence. They realise they have the power to incite change and they’re demanding the same from the brands they buy, writes Will Rowe, CEO of audience insight agency Protein.


Donald eres un pendejo loosely translates to ‘Donald, you’re an idiot’ – Pendejo being a Spanish slang word for the US equivalent of ‘dumb ass’.

Across the globe, this group of consumers have realised it’s not “cool” to sit back – they need to pick a side. Their voices are rising in volume and challenging the status quo.

77% of respondents to our 2016 Audience Survey felt that big brands have a moral obligation to improve the world. Whether that’s companies breaking from the norm through unexpected collaborations, innovative campaigns or communicating an identifiable standpoint, all will be met with interest for being brave enough to do so. But how many alcohol brands can say that they have a genuine, identifiable opinion on important current social, economic or political issues?

There are some companies bravely adopting the same pro-active and increasingly politicised nature of our Audience. Ilegal Mezcal recognises the importance of taking a side and have done just that in the run up to the presidential election in America.

On 19th April at 10pm EST 75 bars and several hundred people joined together for a mass international synchronised drinking protest, #ASHOTATDONALD. By all drinking a shot of Ilegal Mezcal in unison their goal was to unify the community that’s in opposition to Trump’s racist statements and leverage something positive out of the current political climate in America.

81% of our Audience feel that current levels of inclusion of women and minority groups in western culture is unacceptable, according to our 2016 Audience Survey. By fully utilising the potential of social media brands are able to engage in the largest exchange of ideas, perspectives and experiences in human history.


Ilegal Mezcal made a political statement with its #ashotatdonald campaign earlier this year

This has led to a newfound level of empathy and a highlighting of the struggles and challenges faced by minorities, a wake-up call for a culture traditionally dominated by straight, white men. These voices, whether they belong to women, people of colour or the LGBTQ community are rising in volume and challenging a status quo that throughout history has sidelined and ignored them.

“All the things you are not supposed to bring up in a company – politics, religion, sex – are fair game in a bar setting, so there’s some logic for a liquor company taking a political stance and expressing an opinion,” said John Rexer, founder of Ilegal Mezcal, and he makes a good point.

If these brands want to engage the gatekeepers of culture they need to make sure that they’re really making a stand – even if they run the risk of losing a few oppositional supporters in the process.

Our audience really aren’t asking much from companies, but it’s something that big brands have shied away from doing up until now.

If they can communicate a clear, identifiable standpoint and be brave enough to surprise an increasingly savvy audience then they’ll be steps closer to winning them over. And if they’re closer to winner early adopters over, the masses will soon follow.

 Will Rowe is CEO of Protein, an audience insight agency.

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