Star Spangled Brander: Domestic buys provide conservatives with wall of security

Republican voters are strongly attached to home-grown brands, such as General Motors and Dunkin’, because they feel uncertain about the world in which they live and see foreign competition as a sign of division and unrest, new research shows.

Differences of opinion on economic policy, border security and public health care are nothing new for Republican and Democrat voters. But could purchasing habits also become divided along political lines?

New research by Australia’s Monash University shows conservatives are less price sensitive and are willing to pay more for products distributed by familiar home-grown companies compared to liberals who are more brand fluid and exhibit less need for attachment.

The study titled: ‘Political ideology and brand attachment’ was published in the International Journal of Research in Marketing on 22 May 2019. It has significant implications for brand managers and advertisers.

Dr Eugene Chan and Associate Professor Jasmina Ilicic from the Department of Marketing in the Monash Business School conducted this international five-part study with more than 1600 conservative and liberal voters from the USA and the UK.

“People’s motivation to conform are related to political ideology as conformity can help with the preservation of social order, status quo and their respect for tradition. This could also be behind one’s increased attachment to a certain brand,” Associate Professor Ilicic said.

“We found that conservatives exhibit a blind patriotism – an uncritical, emotional attachment to and identification with their country, and a rejection or intolerance of other nations. They also experience a more avoidance disgust response than liberals, which heightens in the face of potential threat or fear.

“This translated to strong attachment bonds with traditional brands as they give conservatives kind of a personal security blanket against potential fears of the unknown.”

Study participants were assessed on how much they felt bonded to both fake (created for the study) and established brands, the introduction of new internationally-successful brands to the crowded marketplace, and whether price increases to their loved brands would encourage them to switch to an alternative.

Researchers found that one’s attachment bond to a brand correlated with their levels of uncertainty and conservative voters would remain brand-loyal, despite any increases in price to their favourite staples.

Dr Chan said the study findings represented a substantial shift in marketing strategy where brand managers can target consumers based on their political ideology.

“This study advances an understanding concerning how political ideology is important when it comes to marketing and consumption more generally. Political ideology is a trenchant way of seeing the world and processing information,” Dr Chan said.

“Brand managers can segment the market and choose advertising vehicles that differ in the political makeup of an audience. For example, established brands may want to feature more prominently in conservative-leaning media outlets and reduce their presence in those that endorse strong liberal values.

“Marketers should consider the importance of consumers’ political ideology in their efforts to build strong brands in a highly competitive space. Creating a brand profile with a clear, consistent targeting strategy can help to minimise budget and boost brand appeal.”