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Marketing Tactics: When Business & Politics Mix

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Nike's online sales are up 31 percent despite backlash from some consumers on its latest "Just Do It" campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

It's the latest example of companies getting bold with their marketing tactic and, despite the initial public relations headache, research shows such campaigns can benefit companies in the long run.

Macalester College media and cultural studies professor, Michael Griffin, says a few factors determine a successful campaign.

He first notes timing. It's no coincidence that a growing number of companies are taking once-bold political stances, considering so many people are supercharged on several social issues.

Griffin also urges people consider who the advertisers are targeting. Investing in the younger audience with bold, social messages is a relatively safe bet. On top of that, experts say millennials are more brand loyal than generations past, so there's a lot at stake.

Finally, he says it's not what the marketers say, rather how they say it.

"All the advertising that you've seen that seems to pay off has a positive tone to it and not negative," said Griffin. "And I think the advertisers definitely want to stay away from anything that seems negative and create ads that seem to have a hopeful, positive tone to them, which again, appeals to younger people. The Kaepernick ad is a very hopeful ad. It's about overcoming obstacles and doing whatever it is you want to do."

The same is true for other successful campaigns with different messages: Chick Fil A donated its money, and Budweiser's 2017 Superbowl ad was that of its immigrant founder chasing his American Dream.

The conflict often comes from the receiving end.

When it comes to whether a company truly believes the message it's sending to consumers, Griffin says, maybe it does. Maybe it doesn't.

"They're doing it not so much because they think the companies have some kind of a moral commitment, as they realize that their markets are made up of people who, often times, care about these things, especially if their markets are younger people" said Griffin. "Most of these companies have identified that younger people care about things like corporate responsibility and social responsibility."

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