Meghan Woods
December 5, 2016

Brands That Won (And Lost) in the 2016 Election


It can be tough for brands to reach consumers during election years when political ads saturate nearly every corner of the media landscape.

But for some brands, the biggest question during the 2016 election season wasn’t how to reach consumers, but rather how to stop consumers from abandoning their brand altogether.

Whether they were accidentally pulled into the conversation or took a firm stance on a particular candidate, there were a few brands that found themselves playing politics this election cycle. Here we examine the brands that declared victory and those that are still grappling with defeat.


1) Skittles

In September, Donald Trump Jr. posted an image on Twitter that compared Syrian refugees to poisoned Skittles. The brand responded saying, “Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy. We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing.”

Winner or Loser? Winner. Skittles appears to have emerged from this incident unscathed, so we’re going to call it a win.


2) New Balance

Shortly after the election in November, a spokesperson for New Balance told a journalist from the Wall Street Journal they felt “things are going to move in the right direction” with President-Elect Donald Trump. Then, a Neo-Nazi blogger called the shoes “the official shoes of white people.” New Balance’s statement coupled with the Neo-Nazi endorsement led to calls for a boycott of the brand.

Winner or Loser? Loser. In case you haven’t seen the photos and videos of people burning their New Balance sneakers, this was a public relations nightmare for New Balance. Execs were quick to point out that the comment was referring to Trump’s stance against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which New Balance said would hurt their manufacturing business. The company also quickly denied any connections to hate groups. However, customers are still airing their displeasure on the company’s Facebook page.


3) Grubhub

The day after the election, Grubhub CEO Matt Maloney sent an e-mail to his employees suggesting anyone who didn’t agree with the company’s “culture of support and inclusiveness” resign. This was in direct response to past statements made by PEOTUS that insulted particular groups of people including women, immigrants, and minorities. When the e-mail went public, customers pledged to boycott the app.

Winner or Loser? Loser. Maloney released a statement the following day that said the comments in his email had been “misconstrued” and said he “did not ask for anyone to resign if they voted for Trump.” Still, the company’s stock had fallen five percent by the end of the week. Grubhub’s standing in the app store also took a hit as some users posted negative reviews and one-star ratings.


4) PayPal

In October, billionaire tech investor and co-founder of PayPal Peter Thiel donated $1.25 million to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. This sparked a swift backlash on social media, with #BoycottPayPal becoming a trending topic on Twitter.

Winner or Loser? Winner. Hours after the calls for a boycott began, many people pointed out that Thiel was no longer affiliated with Paypal — the company was sold to eBay in 2002. PayPal stocks remained unbothered.


5) Starbucks

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz officially endorsed Hillary Clinton in September and continued to be vocal about his support throughout the remainder of the election season. Schultz’s initial endorsement angered many Trump supporters, who called for a boycott of the coffee giant. However, this boycott took on a new form after the election when video was captured of a Trump supporter berating a Starbucks barista whom he claimed refused to serve him because he voted for Trump. The new boycott became known as #TrumpCup, in which Trump supporters were asked to buy a drink from Starbucks and tell the barista their name was Trump. Supporters were asked to record a video if the barista refused to write or call the name.

Winner or Loser? Winner. And it should be pretty obvious as to why. The point of a boycott is to not buy certain goods or services; however, since the #TrumpCup campaign encouraged participants to buy Starbucks, we’re pretty sure this didn’t hurt Starbucks’ bottom line.