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Levi’s or Wranglers? What your brand choice reveals about your politics

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Two types of jeans rule the globe — those produced by Levi Strauss, and those produced by Wrangler. But which brand of jeans rules your heart? The answer may just depend on your political affiliation.

Consumer research data reviewed by The Wall Street Journal shows that liberal Democrats tend to prefer Levi’s, while conservative Republicans generally prefer Wrangler. There’s no simple explanation for why, though.

“Some of it is due to social and political stances companies are taking, such as Levi’s embrace of gun control,” the Journal notes. “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.”

But those factors only explain how the trends began. As for why the trends continue to dominate, the answer may lie in what one marketing firm has dubbed “brand democracy.”

“People actually feel somehow they can make more of a difference with their purchases than they can by voting every four years,” Richard Edelman, the founder of the eponymously named marketing consultancy firm Edelman, said to Fox Business.

He added, “Consumers are buying on beliefs, not just on function.”

And you’ve see it everywhere — from Christian conservatives who used to flock to Chick-fil-A to spite its numerous haters, to liberal Democrats who tried over the summer to boycott Home Depot and the fitness chains SoulCycle and Equinox because their respective owners support President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.

In 2019 America, politics is life.

“Consumers are not just voting in elections, they are voting at the stores by choosing brands aligned with their values,” Edelman added in a statement to the Journal.

The idea appears to be to reward those companies and brands which align with your values, and conversely punish those brands whose values don’t.

As an example, the Journal cited the case of Alana Sivin, a New Yorker who’s a self-described vegan and therefore also presumably a far-left liberal Democrat.

“Sivin said she started thinking more carefully about what to buy a decade ago when she became a vegan,” the paper reported.

Naturally …

“Now, that is translating into the clothes, jewelry and makeup she wears,” the report continued. “The 31-year-old attorney who lives in New York City has stopped buying clothing from fast fashion chains, because she considers their production practices to be harmful to the environment, and is opting for secondhand goods instead. She doesn’t wear makeup that is tested on animals, and when she got engaged earlier this year, she told her fiancé to make sure he didn’t get her a blood diamond. He bought a lab-grown diamond instead.”

Now that’s love … and politics.

“What you buy and what you don’t buy can really make a difference,” she added.

Can it, though? Perhaps it can …

Dovetailing back to jeans, over the summer the financial advisory services website known as The Motley Fool slammed Levi’s for failing to deliver on results.

“Levi Strauss (NYSE:LEVI) impressed investors when it reported its first-quarter results back in April, but the denim company was unable to provide an encore performance,” it reported. “Levi’s second-quarter results fell far short of analyst expectations, missing on both the top and bottom lines. Even on an adjusted basis, which backs out costs related to the IPO, net income tumbled.”

But over in the land of Wrangler, the situation looked notably different.

Kontoor Brands, the owner of Lee and Wrangler jeans, debuted on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday,” Business Insider reported in May. “In sharp contrast to Levi’s stock, which surged more than 30% on debut, shares in the VF Corp spin off plunged more than 7% on their first day of trading.”

Other companies preferred by conservatives — particularly Chick-fil-A, which as of September was the third-largest restaurant chain in the nation (though that may soon change …) — have also been faring well.

Meanwhile, liberal-preferred companies such as Starbucks, the NBA, CNN and of course Levi’s are suffering in one manner or another:

(Source: WSJ)

Hmm. Coincidence or conspiracy?

A survey conducted by Edelman last year found that 60 percent of 1,000 Americans (or 600 Americans, to be exact) were interested in choosing, switching, avoiding, or boycotting a brand based on political ideology. This could potentially be good news for conservative-leaning brands, if their past performance is any indicator.

Of course, all companies could avoid consumers siding with or against them by simply abstaining from partaking in any politics or ideology. But for some inexplicable reason, many CEOS refuse to do exactly that. Moreover, they feel that the risk of losing customers is less important than taking a stand.

“People of all ages, particularly younger consumers, expect a brand to take a stand,” Proctor & Gamble CEO David Taylor said to the Journal. “Our intent is to echo positive values. Not everybody will like every ad.”

The “positive values” of his company Gillette appear to be that men are toxic and women can be men. These “positive values” have reportedly cost P&G billions.

“You cannot be absolutely relevant for one segment in this increasingly polarized world without accepting that that’s not going to be the message that other segments want to hear,” Alan Jope, the chief executive of Unilever PLC, owner of Dove soap and Breyers ice cream, added. “I really profoundly believe that seeking this mushy middle ground, that’s not how the world is anymore.”

Vivek Saxena

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