Monday, December 02, 2019

Are some blue jeans really Democratic and others Republican?

Like Wrangler and Levi’s, more and more brands have become associated with Republicans or Democrats

See Are Your Jeans Red or Blue? Shopping America’s Partisan Divide by Suzanne Kapner and Dante Chinni of The WSJ.

Tastes and preferences are factors that we say affect demand in economics (that is, when tastes change the demand line shifts to the right or left). But we don't spend much time talking about where tastes come from or why they change.

Maybe one reason is what group or tribe you might belong to, like a political party. You prefer the products that others in your tribe usually buy. The WSJ article was very interesting.


"Levi Strauss and Wrangler both got their start as the go-to jeans for cowboys, railroad workers and others who pioneered the American West. Today, they are on opposite sides of a political divide that is affecting not only how people vote but what they buy.

Consumer research data show Democrats have become more likely to wear Levi’s than their Republican counterparts. The opposite is true with Wrangler, which is now far more popular with Republicans.

There is no simple explanation behind those consumer moves. Some of it is due to social and political stances companies are taking, such as Levi’s embrace of gun control. Some is tied to larger geographic shifts in the political parties themselves, as rural counties become more Republican and urban areas lean more Democratic. Wrangler is popular in the cowboy counties of the West and Midwest while San Francisco-based Levi’s resonates more with city dwellers.

Together those factors are combining to create a new, more partisan American consumer culture, one where the red/blue divisions that have come to define national politics have drifted into the world of shopping malls and online stores.

None of this has escaped big-name brands and store chains, which are trying to grow or hold on to market share by showing they support—or oppose—the same causes as their customers.

Since the 2016 election, companies have started to wade deeper into issues they would have recoiled from a decade ago, such as gun control, immigration and gay rights, in part to appeal to younger, socially conscious consumers. At the same time, the country is becoming more polarized along political lines, which is having an effect on brands that choose to stay out of the political fray.
“Consumers are not just voting in elections, they are voting at the stores by choosing brands aligned with their values,” said Richard Edelman, chief executive of Edelman, a big public relations firm that has studied the issue."

"Levi Strauss & Co. has embraced liberal causes such as gun control and support for immigrants. Wrangler has stayed out of politics but has burnished the cowboy aspects of its brand by supporting rodeo.

From 2004 to 2018, the partisan split within Levi’s customer base to the Democrats grew by 3 percentage points, while Wrangler’s customer base moved 13 percentage points toward the Republicans"

"Nearly 60% of 1,000 Americans surveyed by Edelman last year said they would choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on its stand on societal issues. That is up from 47% in 2017."

"On Monday, Chick-fil-A Inc. said it would limit its focus on charitable giving starting next year to education, homelessness and hunger. The moves follow criticism by liberal groups and some customers of donations to groups that had a history of opposing same-sex marriage or were criticized as antigay for other reasons."

"the number of products skewing Democratic by at least 3 percentage points rose to 309 in 2018 from 192 in 2004. Meanwhile the number of products with a Republican tilt declined to 153 from 214.

Some of the biggest shifts occurred with brands of hard liquor, such as Chivas Regal and Courvoisier, and wine, many of which grew more Democratic as they became more popular with younger drinkers. Autos also had big swings from 2004 to 2018, with owners of GMC and Ford vehicles growing more Republican.

Some of the world’s best known brands are capitalizing on this consumer split. Nike Inc. became a lightning rod last year when it featured in advertisements Colin Kaepernick, the former National Football League quarterback who knelt on the field during the national anthem to protest the treatment of minorities. In 2018, 46% of Nike customers identified as Democrats, while 31% were Republicans.

“It doesn’t matter how many people hate your brand as long as enough people love it,” Nike co-founder Phil Knight told students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business earlier this year. “You have to take a stand on something, which is ultimately I think why the Kaepernick ad worked.”"

"U.S. market share in the jeans market has held fairly steady over the past five years, with Levi’s holding the top spot with 12% of sales in 2018. Wrangler is No. 2 with a 4.8% share, according to Euromonitor International Ltd., a market researcher."

"In 2004, 41% of the people who wore Levi’s were self-identified Democrats and 37% were Republicans, meaning it skewed to the Democrats by 4 percentage points, according to the MRI-Simmons data. By 2018, that gap had widened: 39% were Democrats and just 32% were Republicans, a 7 point skew.

The movement went the other way for Wrangler jeans. In 2004, 36% of Wrangler’s customers identified as Republicans and 44% as Democrats, an 8 point skew to the Democrats. By 2018, 39% were Republicans and just 34% were Democrats, the data show, skewing 5 percentage points to the Republican side, for a total change of 13 points.

Behind some of the shifts are larger moves in the electorate that have led to a self-sorting of voters politically. Research from the Pew Research Center finds that fewer Americans hold a mix of liberal and conservative views. That means there are fewer conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans than there were in the past.

Democrats increasingly live in and around large urban areas, where people tend to be more supportive of left-leaning issues such as gun control, and Republicans are based more heavily in rural areas.

A key part of Wrangler’s Republican roots is the brand’s strength in rural communities. Wrangler’s footprint is evident in online sales from its website as collected by Connexity, an online advertising firm.

In heavily Republican states such as Montana, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Idaho, per capita online sales of Wranglers are much higher than they are in more urban states, such as New York and California. Those two states are strongholds for Levi’s, according to Connexity."

1 comment:

Rick Shapiro said...

Political action by a company is obscure news, outside of the ken of almost everyone. It is therefore unlikely that political stances by Levi's have a noticeable effect on sales. The reason for red state avoidance of Levi's is self-evident: Levi is a Jewish name.