Politics and Purchase Power: A Conversation with Ron Halverson


The 2016 election took pocketbook politicking to a new level, with anti-Trumpers launching Grab Your Wallet to protest such brands as L.L. Bean and New Balance, and the pro-Trump camp boycotting the likes of PepsiCo and Oreos. Corporations, too, are taking sides in the political realm (Uber and Lyft, for example, each saw the consequences of their responses to President Trump’s refugee ban play out in real time).

Still, when it comes down to it, will diehard Cubs fans really dump their team to make a statement about its owners’ political donations? Will Pepsi devotees mess with their caffeine fix? We saw that some Uber riders actually did delete their accounts—what deeper motivations made them do so?

To get underneath this issue, Halverson Group is joining forces with the innovative crowd-sourcing market research platform Collaborata on a new study called “Politics and Purchase Power: Do People Really Put Their Money Where Their Party Is?” For the study, we will leverage Jobs to Be Won™, our proprietary approach to understanding peoples’ motivations for taking action (or the “jobs” in their lives that propel them to seek solutions). We will uncover how purchases are influenced by beliefs, demographics and situations, and participants will walk away with a PoliPower Index™ that will tell them where their brands stand—and what taking a stand could mean for them. We encourage you to join forces with other brands to co-fund this important study and get valuable information without carrying the costs alone!

Ron Halverson provides more details and the back story below.

Q: Coming off the women’s march and news of Trump endorsements and boycott lists—as well as brands’ reactions to Trump’s executive orders—making headlines every day, this study couldn’t be more timely. Tell us a bit about how it came to be.

A: The last election was unusual in many ways—to say the least!—and one aspect that stuck out among our clients and friends in the industry was how vocal consumers were about corporations’ political positions, whether perceived or actual. From L.L. Bean needing to scramble because of a family member’s political donations to Pepsi CEO’s Indra Nooyi’s comments about the election—though not pointedly anti-Trump—leading some Trump supporters to boycott Pepsi, missiles are coming from every side. And any category is a target. Social media has made it easy for people to lash out at brands—whether merited or not—and there is no way to predict it. So, our clients are talking about it. What is the risk? How can they be ready if it happens to them? Brands that are proactive about this issue won’t have to scramble. On the flip side, they may even come to realize that actually taking a political stand (or finding another meaningful way of satisfying their target’s deeper motivations for taking political actions) could benefit their brand. There is not much research out there that looks at multiple sides of this picture across categories, so we decided to dig in. And the beauty of this platform is that no one brand has to take on the financial burden of being proactive!

Q: What can co-funders expect to learn from the study?

A: I think they will be very impressed with our list of deliverables, which are, of course, in the project abstract. But to summarize, they will be armed with a PoliPower Index™, a ranking that tells brands whether or not they are vulnerable and illustrates the driving forces behind their ranking, and they will get brand insulation insights to help them understand what brand attributes could lessen a blow. They will also walk away with actionable segmentations of the U.S. populations based on political beliefs and purchase impact. And, getting back to the core of what we do, we will deliver a report on the “jobs” of politically influenced purchases, which is the discovery and sizing of the motivational territories behind people’s politically charged purchase decisions, revealing what people are hoping to accomplish when they put their money where their party is.

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about what you mean by “jobs”?

A: We are practitioners of a theory called jobs to be done, which has been around for a couple decades. The idea is that people “hire” products to do a “job” for them. That job is not a function, like cleaning the countertop—it’s a deeper motivation, such as “showing that I take good care of my home.” So, we uncover these deeper human truths for clients, allowing them to better speak to and serve their customers; sharpen their products and purpose; and market to the right audience. The “won” part of Jobs to Be Won™ is really a scaling and sizing mechanism that we have worked hard to create, based on our own clients’ stated needs. Companies are definitely interested in anecdotal job stories that help them understand people, but they also need to know whether certain jobs are worth their investment. They also need to be able to discover what jobs people are looking to get done that don’t currently offer them a good solution, because where there is demand and no existing solutions there are opportunities.

Likewise, with our politics study, we will discover and size the motivational territories behind people’s politically influenced purchases, revealing what people are hoping to accomplish when they use their wallet to voice their views, and how impactful these motivations (or “jobs”) could actually be for a brand.

Q: Does that mean that in some instances, the job that people are seeking to get done by boycotting a brand might be something a brand might want to leverage?

It’s possible that a brand could stand to gain from aligning with its customers’ passion, yes. Let’s stay a deeper motive for boycotting a brand is “To Be Part of Something Bigger,” and that “job” emerges as important for a particular group of people or in a certain category, that is a powerful insight for a brand. But what’s even more powerful about jobs is that they are rooted in situations, which means that in a particular situation—let’s say when people are with friends for example—boycotting a brand might fulfill a different job than when they are alone. Understanding people’s deeper motivations at different moments in their lives is very powerful for brands.  And that is what we help them uncover.

If you’d like to learn more about this study—and, we hope, become a co-funder!—learn more at Collaborata. Early sponsors will get perks!