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Preparing Your Brand in an Election Year: Insights for Marketing Leaders

6.5.24 / By Nadine General

As we head into another election season, conversations are once again charged and battling misinformation has become an even bigger daily practice.

Plus, we’re all now navigating the political landscape online and off. Both are battlegrounds for our brands, with greater scrutiny on social responsibility, varying economic conditions and societal changes.

Enter advanced technology like generative AI. Combined with data and analytics that allow for precise audience targeting, you have a high-stakes environment that needs to be traversed carefully.

How do you navigate the challenges and opportunities—or decipher one from the other—of elevated political discourse?

Depending on which way you turn (or swipe), it could be a landmine or a goldmine.

An election impacts shifts in consumer behavior, and understanding the options at your disposal will help with two things: avoiding political pitfalls, and staying on a marketing campaign trail that leads your brand to victory.


Like anything else, the best place to start is with the basics:

  • Reputation management is paramount.
  • Maintaining corporate goodwill should be a constant.
  • While “transparency” is an overused buzzword, it’s also very real and very important, especially during an election year.

Regularly demonstrate how you’re staying true to your brand, whether that’s through corporate social responsibility initiatives or community engagement. This provides value that helps build consumer trust.

But what does that look like?

One of the best examples we can give is DS+CO’s core values: courage, curiosity and community.

We defined and adopted these values internally, and they take many forms. You’ll see them in the ways we serve our teams and clients, welcome new perspectives, create safe spaces for collaboration and practice inclusivity. The list goes on.

But our values extend outside of our company—and yours should, too. To be part of a greater cause is to lend our talents to better others around us, even when it means putting their needs above our own.

That’s why the best brands look outside themselves to share their gifts externally. For us, that looks like philanthropy in our community—on boards, as volunteers or as donors.

This is how DS+CO has built a reputation for doing good. And like a vintage car, it’s something we’re proud of, so we take efforts to preserve its longevity so its value can grow with time. We promote our goodwill, making it a pillar of our brand and a staple of our 37-year history.

You don’t build trust and loyalists overnight, but you have to start somewhere.

If a corporate social responsibility strategy isn’t part of your plan, start by prioritizing that this summer—ahead of election season.


The average consumer receives 6,000-10,000 advertisements and messages per day, according to this Forbes article. That’s a lot of noise.

And there’s about to be more: Past presidential campaigns are harbingers for the barrage of online campaigning that’s coming this year.

Among it all, misinformation is a constant battle in the media landscape today. (Kate Middelton frenzy, anyone?)

When transparency is frequently questioned, trust gets eroded quickly. Consumers are influenced across various media platforms, meaning they have to discern deep fakes from fake news from conspiracies and other forms of deception.

Among these platforms, social media leads the way both as the go-to source for American’s news and for presidential candidates seeking their votes.

This trend isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it tells us social media will be a hotbed driver of public sentiment and rouse voters again this year—likely tenfold.

It also tells us user engagement and time spent on social media will increase exponentially, which presents a great opportunity to reach a much larger audience.

But it also means ... So. Much. Noise.

If your brand is present in a space of discord, this increases your risk to brand safety. Take care and move wisely.

Social media algorithms can significantly influence public opinion and engagement by amplifying content and creating an echo chamber.

Be mindful of how and when your brand shows up around political ads or conversation.

Specifically, if your brand is placed next to an ad that doesn’t align with your company value—or alternatively, when your brand does regularly take a stand on issues and it’s radio silent when your audience is expecting you to speak out.

Prioritize your customer service and be timely with your community management.

Anticipate online events that may arise, and have messaging prepared that’s true to your brand. That way, you’re ready to change course if it’s not ideal for you to engage or if the content directly opposes your organization’s beliefs.


eMarketer published a report recently that showed consumers are suspicious of brands that advertise on sites known to spread misinformation:

  • 75% of respondents are entirely put off from these brands.
  • Many believe placements on these sites speak directly to a brand’s values.
  • 72% believe brands are responsible for the content surrounding their ads.

The good news is, ethical and regulatory measures have been implemented on major social media platforms since the last presidential election to shield brands from controversial political topics and ad placements.

Here’s a brief breakdown of the guidelines by platform, from

  • TikTok: No political or issue-based advertising allowed.
  • Meta (Facebook + Instagram): Allows ads about social issues, elections and politics, with verification and disclaimer requirements.
  • Google (YouTube): Requires identity verification for election ads and restricts targeting options for such ads.
  • LinkedIn: Political ads are prohibited. Politics and social media don’t mix on this platform.
  • X: Permits political advertising with pre-approval and limited targeting options.

These measures bode well for all of us and will serve as a layer of support. But ultimately, it’s on you to actively monitor discussions and brand mentions.

This is where vigilance comes in—it’s critical to helping protect your brand on platforms where conversations are charged.

Be flexible in your approach and cognizant of when to adjust your strategy in real time. Prioritize the platforms that resonate most with your audience.

You have options. Lean into the flexibility.


Election season comes with seasonal pricing, and rates are projected to rise this year.

Advertising costs will fluctuate around the ramp-up, and the six-week period leading up to Election Day will also mean elevated pricing. This includes connected (CTV), TV, radio and billboards/out-of-home (OOH).

Keep in mind, digital OOH, paid search and streaming audio are also not immune to the impact.

BrandMuscle suggests marketers targeting battleground states should plan for a 15%-50%increase in CPMs (cost per mile/thousand) for CTV—as well as CPMs and CPC (cost per click) for paid social—during the core six weeks of the election and throughout the year in key battleground states.

Higher CPMs mean you might require more budget to hit the same results as you did in 2023.

And BrandMuscle continues to report that non-battleground states will not be entirely insulated from the election year’s inflationary effects on advertising.

Marketers in these areas should anticipate a general increase of 10%-20% in advertising costs due to the nationwide push in political campaigning and the overarching demand for ad space.

All that to say—plan your budgets accordingly. Because while the financials sound complex, the payoff is simple. Think of it like an equation:

Traditional and digital strategies + advancements in technology = increased efficiency and engagement.

And with so many marketing channels at your disposal, you can access and use sophisticated tools and data-driven insights for greater flexibility in your campaign strategies.


Political pressure can arise wherever conversations are happening. The key is to elevate your brand’s discourse and ride the wave.

To navigate challenges and opportunities—and decipher one from the other—you need a diversified strategy:

  • Using historical data, follow the trends to apply best practices and develop a sound model.
  • Have a deep understanding of your audience.
  • Place the right message in the right spot, speaking directly to that audience.
  • Find the balance and be smart about when to pivot.
  • Prepare for the inevitable consumer behavior influences that will impact your audience.
  • Remain focused on your brand truth.

Following these cardinal rules will save you time, stretch your budget and help you preserve not only your brand credibility but also the important relationships that remain well beyond election season.

Want to chat about preparing your brand now or beyond election season? Let’s connect:

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Nadine General

Nadine’s expertise in executive and crisis communications, strategy, and reputation management helps her lead our PR team. She joined DS+CO from the American Red Cross, where she deployed to national disasters to support disaster and crisis communications. She’s certified in HubSpot inbound marketing and holds degrees from St. John Fisher University and Monroe Community College. She lends her talent as past president of the Public Relations Society of America Rochester Chapter, and is on the diversity committee, she’s a Forty Under 40 recipient and a Rochester Business Journal Woman of Excellence.