2017: the year when politics and content collide?

Household brands were unable to escape the political turmoil that reached fever pitch in late 2016. For content marketers, this means new pressures and new opportunities

December saw a spat between the cereal connoisseurs at Kellogg’s and the Trump enthusiasts at Breitbart escalate into all-out war, as the decision by the former to halt advertising via the latter led to an unprecedented uproar.

For Kellogg’s, Breitbart’s right-wing slant on current affairs didn’t line up with their stringent company values. For Breitbart, the attempt by Kellogg’s to politicise breakfast amounted to unacceptable left-wing “bigotry”.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of this peculiar dispute, it seems we are all doomed to dine on humanity’s new breakfast of choice: bitter spoonful after bitter spoonful from the grim bowl of political polarisation.

Industries once insulated from the realm of political mudslinging are being inexorably drawn in. And the implications could be particularly pressing for content marketers.

Politicisation: here to stay?

With Britain’s EU referendum and an out-of-the-ordinary US election, there is no doubt that 2016 was a more politically tumultuous year than most. Is it possible that this tumult, all-consuming though it was, has passed?

The prospect of calmer waters ahead seems unlikely. In Europe alone, presidential elections are scheduled in France and Germany and a general election is due in the Netherlands – all countries where polls show surges in support for right-wing outsiders.

Even without the distinct possibility of more political shocks and upsets, this turbulent environment will force brands in the public eye to express their views on salient issues of the day like never before.

What now for content marketers?

While the tendency of big companies to take up political stances is a growing phenomenon, their need for content remains as prevalent as ever. Content marketers, then, are going to have to work out their place in this new climate.

On the one hand, the politicisation of content could be a content marketing bonanza. Content marketers will be more in demand than ever as brands of all kinds seek to establish their political niches via bold, opinionated content, creating new opportunities to cash in.

On the other hand, content marketers may have to think carefully about their own values. Content marketers will need to decide where they stand as the corporate world becomes increasingly politically polarised.

This is not just morally compelling, but may be unavoidable from a business perspective. If companies and consumers alike are only willing to work with and buy from brands sharing their visions and values, political aloofness simply won’t be an option.

Uncertainty ahead

As this article’s quizzical title and subheadings indicate, it’s difficult to work out just what will happen next. It might be that the Kellogg’s-Breitbart dispute was an eccentric one-off. Conversely, politicisation of the corporate world could be the new order of the day.

Whatever happens, content producers of all kinds need to brace themselves. Content marketers may have been able to rise above the dirty business of political dispute in the past, but those thinking they can get away with it in the coming year need to think again.

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