U.S. businesses have been slow to react to the Postal Service crisis, but many have been gearing up to ensure that voters are educated about voting and motivated to vote in the November 3 election. That could make a crucial difference in turnout as the Trump administration continues to foster doubt and confusion over the security of mail-in ballots in particular, and the elections process in general. Levi's, however, has a plan to help blunt any such disruptions.
In the latest development, Levi’s recently launched a public information campaign to encourage voter participation.
Levi’s took the issue of voter confusion head on. The company’s “Unzipped” blog editor Danielle Samaniego opened the campaign on August 20 with a direct challenge to voters.
“Election Day will not go perfectly. You may be discouraged. Obstacles will abound,” she wrote. "Vote anyway.”
For the new campaign, Levi’s tapped model and activist Hailey Bieber and filmmaker Oge Egbuonu to deliver a striking public service announcement on YouTube in an effort to reach 70 million young eligible voters. Artist Jazmine Williams and photographer Djeneba Aduayom also collaborated on the project.
The PSA does not simply focus on who will become president. It emphasizes state and local elections, including sheriffs, district attorneys and thousands of other elected offices that directly impact the lives of individuals. It is a message about control over destiny.
The PSA also goes beyond exhorting individuals to vote. It further encourages young people - and all people - to talk and write about voting.
“[Bieber and Oge] called on activists, scholars, organizers and their friends to help them deliver a powerful message rooted in education and emotion,” wrote Samaniego.
The campaign also recognizes that there is a gap between having conversations and actually going through the process of voting. Talking, writing and thinking about key issues are all part of a first step that leads to voting.
“My hope with this call to action is that it would encourage, educate and inspire this next generation to vote in November and to understand why it’s important,” Bieber explained in that Levi’s blog post.
Within another part of the campaign, Levi’s has tapped into a network of independent activists to help motivate potential voters to take action and become actual voters. The company has recruited 23 voting rights and civic engagement organizations to participate in its ongoing #UseYourVoice LIVE social media campaign.
In addition, Levi’s says it is providing a total of $2.6 million in financial support to all 23 groups through its corporate arm and the Levi Strauss Foundation.
“These organizations are working to remove barriers and improve access to the polls, mobilize voters in marginalized communities and engage young voters in the democratic process,” wrote Samaniego in the Unzipped blog. “Each community partner supported through this portfolio is leading high-touch, high-impact engagement efforts with communities that are too often left out of the democratic process. Together they seek to educate, empower and activate millions of voters across the nation.”
In today’s business environment, consumers are receptive to messages about social justice. Practically any leading company has an opportunity to build brand reputation by promoting voter education, voter rights and voter participation.
Levi’s has taken the bottom line factor a step farther, by linking its PSA and social media campaigns to a line of get-out-the-vote T-shirts, sweatshirts and tote bags.
Some of the items simply read, “Vote.” Others highlight the two-stage motivational strategy behind the PSA with the messages, “Don’t just post about it. Vote about it.”
Similarly, other messages exhort consumers to go beyond dreaming and thinking, to voting.
It seems that Levi’s has thrown down the gauntlet. It will be interesting to see if other brands take up the challenge and begin marketing voter participation under their own banner.
Levi’s is aiming to stake out ground as the brand leader on voter participation, but it is far from the only company to get involved during this election cycle.
In the weeks leading up to November 3, it is possible that some of these other companies may take a page out of the Levi’s book, and step up their activities.
One example is the organization Business for America, which mustered 400 companies as part of a successful get-out-the-vote campaign during the 2018 election cycle. BFA has upped the ante with a goal of 1,000 participants for 2020.
This year, the participants include Levi’s, Patagonia and many other familiar names in the social justice arena - but also participating are Best Buy, Walmart, PayPal and other nationally recognized companies that touch tens of millions of consumers.
In addition, businesses are finally beginning to respond to widespread reports of delays in mail delivery following the appointment of Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General. The American Sustainable Business Council, for example, has rounded up its network of more than 200,000 members in support of the U.S. Postal Service.
DeJoy’s recent testimony before the House and Senate highlighted apparent conflicts of interest and an irregular appointment process, lending force to ASBC’s arguments for restoring the Postal Service to normal operations.
“The USPS provides every American address with the same equal service with equitable pricing,” ASBC wrote in an open petition.
That argument for address equality is directly relevant to voter participation during the COVID-19 outbreak, as elections planners in many states turn to mail-in ballots as a means of preventing the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, the president has presented the public with messages that raise doubts about the security of the mail-in process, the use of standalone drop boxes, and personal safety at polling locations. Voting advocates are concerned that these messages will dampen voter turnout before November 3, and possibly lead to litigation and civil unrest in the days afterwards as millions of mailed-in ballots remain to be counted.
Companies that support voting rights in 2020 election cycle may find that their work has only just begun. They should start preparing now for a continued effort that lasts long after the polls close on November 3.
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Image credit: Kari Sullivan/Unsplash
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.
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