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Super Bowl ads show a corporate rebuke of Trumpism

Eric Garland Social trends 1 Comment

Super Bowl ads of 2017 show that Trump is bad for business, and business knows it. The themes of inclusiveness showed definitively that whatever public polling might be available about the new administration’s policies, the data behind the strategic marketing of some of the world’s biggest brands show that Trumpism isn’t permanent, and its supporters aren’t influential enough to court.

So good news: it seems that ethno-fascism isn’t the branding trend of the future.

“Our brand is for everyone,” said major corporations

Trump’s rhetoric has been xenophobic, his close confederates racist, and his recent Muslim ban a betrayal of diplomatic custom and basic decency. Between this and the ominous, fascist rhetoric of mass arrests and deportation of undocumented workers, the promise of a dark Trumpian future might deter corporations from speaking out. One might imagine those companies would fear his promises of retribution, such as tariffs or new taxes, should they cross him.

They don’t appear worried about him at all. In fact – no doubt citing basic demographic trends, opinion polls about race, and the important role of immigration in everything from healthcare to construction to agriculture – corporations knows that the cowering, jackbooted policies of detaining little boys at the border aren’t going to play to their customer base. And combined with the historic public protests around the world, this is the exact kind of zeitgeist that branding creatives love to tap for their campaigns.

This moment is too powerful for brands to ignore – and the most sophisticated data collectors in the world have not done this without ample research. They know which way the wind is blowing, and that fear just doesn’t sell as well as hope.

The Inclusive Super Bowl ads of 2017

Coca-Cola is one of the most recognizable brands on Earth, and it kicked off the trend of global marketing when it asked us to buy the entire freaking Earth a Coke. I don’t know how ambitious your company’s mission statement is, but Coca-Cola doesn’t mess around. So now that pluralism is under attack and policies are trending to the feverishly xenophobic, Coke brought out every possible American patriotic symbol plus a whole ton of foreign languages in one of America’s most patriotic songs.

This brand is not riding the Trump train.

Anheuser-Busch told the story of the immigration of its founder, Adolphus Busch and revealed a lot of truths about American immigration. First, long before nativists focused on Mexicans, Asians, or Middle Easterners, they had equal or greater hatred for the white-skinned immigrant waves of Irish, Poles, and Germans.

Second, many immigrant waves have showed up educated, well-financed, and ready to join the Middle Class almost immediately at arrival. The German immigration is particularly interesting, especially in the story of St. Louis and the brewing industry. Attracted to a familiar landscape and rapid economic expansion, many Bavarians came straight to the Missouri river basins. Many of them did not leave Germany out of desperation, but of foresight. Their northern countrymen were excluding Bavarian catholics from economic and political opportunities. Missouri offered fertile ground for agriculture and business success. Thus many Bavarians showed up with assets ready to invest, mature trades ready to ply. One of these, depicted by the ad below, founded what ended up as the world’s most successful brewery.

(For more on this amazing story, check out Bill Streeter’s upcoming film, St. Louis Brews)

Though no doubt produced before the travel ban, AB-InBev’s internal data shows that the story of non-demonizable immigrants plays well or they wouldn’t have green lit the spot. And they made the right call – this is the true story of immigrants, people who come ready to work hard on day one.

84 Lumber produced one of the most humanizing stories of immigration from America’s southern neighbors. All I can really say about the haunting and joyous film is that this company knows who does construction labor now, who’s starting construction firms tomorrow, and who’s making the purchasing decisions in the future.

This is a corporate rebuke of Trumpism

We know that Trump lost the popular vote by millions, meaning that his election does not even represent a plurality – much less a majority – of the views of the American people. Moreover, the policies pursued in the early days of this administration were not taken seriously by many of the voters who harbored antipathy toward Hillary Clinton and assumed that Trump would be more of a zany deal maker than a radical white nationalist. Corporations and their best-in-class polling data know this as well, and it is in their strategic interest to oppose the reality and the image of these policies. These Super Bowl ads show that they are ready to act in that interest.

This realization doesn’t even include the fact that global brands cannot limit themselves to American opinion, and the fact is, Trumpism is revolting to almost every other nation on Earth. (An exception is Russia, whose President only enjoys this because he would like to watch America burn.) Global businesses can’t make money off Deplorables – in America, or anywhere else.

In this time of doubting certain public polls, you should have high confidence in this one.


If you have a conference, executive retreat, or other live event and want to explore this topic, check out my keynote The Future of Brands, or my new workshop America in Transition: Preparing for Change.

  • Dan Gaulin

    Great post and great news for the majority of us who did not vote for Trump. It was reported that he left his Super Bowl party midway through the 3rd. Was it a sign of no faith in Brady and the Pats (sad!) or that he couldn’t take the subtle but effective rebukes from Lady Gaga and big business (weak!)