This UK cafe wants American customers to be “accompanied by an adult” – does political newsjacking work?

cafe hospitality

The world has had a few days to process the reality of a Trump presidency, and pubs, cafes and diners have jumped to provide political commentary to their local customers.

Businesses are falling into two main categories – those happy with the election result, who have gone so far as to change the name of their businesses in support of the new president, and those less thrilled with the outcome, who have seen the opportunity to make light of the situation.

One of the most wide-reaching examples came from a UK cafe that reminded customers after election day that American customers “must be accompanied by an adult” when visiting the premises.

Customers praised Goswell Street Coffee for its on-point analysis, with some saying they certainly “knew their audience”.

Meanwhile, others are getting on board by borrowing the President’s name. President-elect Trump already has a number of businesses named after him through The Trump Organization, but that hasn’t stopped enthusiastic punters, like Bellville Café in Texas, from changing its name to “Trump Café” before the election. The co-owner, who has told US press he is a Muslim, is selling Trump memorabilia and the site has become quite the attraction over the past week.

This kind of newsjacking doesn’t necessarily work long term, say branding experts, and businesses need to understand audiences before embarking on anything that might go viral.

“From the marketing and viral perspective, it’s not without its risks,” says social media consultant Nicole Jensen.

Especially if a business is relatively new, founders need to do the legwork to engage with their community before making political commentary.

“If you definitely know your audience and you already have a good relationship with them, then sure, but if you don’t engage with your community already, you’re at risk,” says Jensen.

Last week social media expert Catriona Pollard told SmartCompany the election result had left the door open for many brands to comment on politics, which left scope for things to be poorly pitched or inappropriate for the audience.

“I saw a lot of brands on Facebook and Twitter [last week] posting political sentiment that was inappropriate for their audience,” she said.

While the examples above struck a cord with their audiences, it’s important not to assume customers will want a certain type of political commentary until you get to know them.

“It’s not a tip for new businesses, unless they absolutely knew that was the path they wanted to take,” says Jensen.

Director of InsideOut PR Nicole Reaney believes the more people jumping on the news bandwagon, the less impact this style of engagement might have.

“It’s not surprising that organisations will leverage the event in humorous marketing tactics. However, people can be resilient to noticing it if lots of brands take this approach and they’re no longer creative or unique,” Reaney says.

“The most effective will be brands that have a cheeky sense of humour as part of its brand ethos and continues to draw customers in.”


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