• Mikkel Højager Jacobsen
  • Aske Bisgaard Pedersen
4. term, Communication, Master (Master Programme)
This thesis focuses on creating a deeper understanding of American brands tendency to get political as the result of a generally more polarized political sphere and more specifically as a result of Donald J. Trump being elected president of The United States. A lot of the world’s most prominent brands have to some extent positioned themselves in opposition to Trump and his political statements and actions. After an initial thorough research, we’ve found that no brands are explicitly praising Trump or his policies – in fact, our investigation concludes the opposite to be the case.

Thus our pilot research for this thesis concludes, that the amount of brands participating in opposing Trump are many, however, very little academic research has been done on the subject. Therefore the purpose of this thesis is to cover this academic gap and investigate how prominent American brands are using this political polarization as an active part of their branding and general market positioning.

In order to create multifaceted knowledge about how brands use this political arena in their branding, we present a four-legged case study with an analytical focus on how Airbnb, Starbucks, Budweiser and Coca-Cola implement political messages in their communication. To obtain a more extensive qualitative insight in how they do so, we analyse selected parts of their external communication products, including Super Bowl commercials, public statements and tweets.

In order to investigate the cases, we present multimodal, social semiotics and discourse theory as the analytical baseline to understand how and what our cases communicate within this defined political contextual frame. The analytical focus is not on the perception of the communication from a consumer point-of-view, but mainly on how the communication unfolds.
Discursively, all of the four cases position themselves in opposition to Trump, some more explicitly than other. Budweiser least explicit, Coca-Cola more explicit, and Airbnb and Starbucks most explicit by not only communicating but also taking action in support for those affected by Trump. All four cases take positive stands at political issues such as immigration, social accept, the travel ban, diversity etc., which in the political and sociocultural context position them antagonistic in relation to Trump.

Finally, the thesis discusses the level of the selected cases’ discursive anti-Trump practices, the reasons why, and the possible effects of these practices. One of the main focal points of this discussion is the influence of a politically-oriented consumer in brands’ tendency to engage in political matters. It can be concluded, that one of the reasons is that their practices might weaken the brand loyalty among their American stakeholders but strengthen the very same among their global stakeholders since the majority of people worldwide are proven to be against Trump’s politics. Another discussion point is the possibility of the selected cases’ political stance being an example proactive crisis communication to prevent potential boycott of their brand on a global scale.

Publication date24 May 2017
Number of pages117
ID: 258226964