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The Rise of Radical Brands

Social sentiment, ideology, and culture are manifested through different forms of communication, from graffiti to personal style to journalism. Regardless of the means, through communication, we can see how society is growing together or growing apart.
In light of recent world events, communications have shown how polarized our society has become, which is made evident through radical messaging. If there is something that we can learn from this year’s Presidential election it is that our country is more divided than ever. We are becoming a tale of two Americas. There is the red state and then there’s the blue state, both with different social, political and economics views.
And many of us are left wondering: How do these societal shifts impact brands and the way in which they communicate with a divided country?
To stay relevant brands tend to mirror popular culture, which is the dominant share of values and beliefs within society. Consequently, cultural hegemony appears in advertising, movies, books, TV shows. Historically, these forms of communication reflected cultural norms and beliefs, such as boys play with cars, motorcycles are cool, women cook and that we should obey the law. But, in recent years, we have seen a huge change in these cultural norms. To get a sense of these changes, we just have to look at the extreme views in media (e.g., Breitbart News vs. Daily Kos), TV shows (e.g., Duck Dynasty vs. Modern Family) and movies (e.g., Argo vs. The Imitation Game). As a result, brands’ age-old practice of appealing to mainstream culture through mass media no longer works because there is no longer a one size fits all for communications. And now, In order to successfully communicate to consumers, brands are forced to a pick side.
From a cultural perspective, the divide is becoming too broad in our society to play in the middle: the values that are embraced by half of the population are rejected by the other half. And since people want to engage with content that reinforces their views (creating a confirmation bias), they are more likely to pay attention to media, TV shows, books, and brands that substantiate and support their views. 
From a media perspective, digital has become the new form of mass media but on a personal level. Today, we have an infinite range of options to watch what we love, when and where we want.
Not surprising, the brands that are becoming culturally relevant with one group are distancing themselves from another. Spotify is a great example of this: post-election, the company is promoting an anthem about moving to Canada. Another example is the Camera company 360fly's off-color satire of a hypothetical Trump administration was banned by three of the four major broadcast networks. And finally, a Mexican beer maker, Tecate, premiered a commercial during the first presidential debate mocking Republican nominee Donald Trump's rhetoric and his promised wall. All of these brands are creating content that appeals to one group within society while also repelling another.

In summary, communication is a building block for our social reality. The more polarized our society is, the more brands are forced to align their messages to appeal to its buyer base


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