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Lesson’s from Charlottesville on The Role of Brands In Cultural Leadership

August 24, 2017 Comments Off on Lesson’s from Charlottesville on The Role of Brands In Cultural LeadershipComments Off on Lesson’s from Charlottesville on The Role of Brands In Cultural Leadership

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After President Trump’s response to the tragedy of Charlottesville, Va. numerous members of Trump’s economic advisory groups resigned, which ultimately resulted in the President terminating both the Manufacturing Council and the Strategy & Policy Forum.

The corporate response to Charlottesville and President Trump’s reaction to it offer valuable lessons in the increasingly important role of brands in deonstrating inclusive cultural leadership.

Before the final termination of the Business Councils, numerous business leaders such as Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and Travis Kalanick, former CEO of Uber, left the council because they disagreed with the president’s stance on key cultural issues such as immigration and the Paris Climate Agreement.  

Inge Thulin, CEO of the mining and manufacturing conglomerate 3M was one of the first to leave the Manufacturing Council after Charlottesville statements.

Thulin stated, “Sustainability, diversity and inclusion are my personal values and also fundamental to the 3M vision…I believe the initiative is no longer an effective vehicle for 3M to advance these goals.”

Many business executives initially thought that serving on the President’s advisory committees would be advantageous to their companies and give them the ability to provide input on key policy decisions. However, President Trump’s stance on key cultural issues, which went against many brands core values, forced America’s corporate thought leaders to resign from the group.

Essentially, it is paramount for brands to align themselves with inclusive, socially responsible practices, not only for the good of humanity, but also for the benefit of the bottom line.

Let’s look at how brands can maintain a positive image and support social justice in tumultuous times

Take a stand: As the saying goes, “silence is complicity” and that’s especially true when your brand, product or industry is ancillary to social injustice.

That doesn’t mean that you have to make a public announcement about every wrongful act; however, it is crucial to ensure that your stakeholders know where you stand on key issues particularly when they relate to your company.

An example of a business that recently made a public statement condemning wrongdoing is Tiki Brand. The neo-Nazi demonstrators used the tiki torches during the march in Charlottesville, which put the brand in an uncomfortable position and garnered consumer criticism on social media.

To ensure that consumers know the tiki brand’s values, the company publically denounced white supremacy via social media.

While some branding experts argue that it’s better to stay quiet about negative associations with your brand – especially when you are simply an innocent bystander – Tiki Brand could not afford the risk of being associated with neo-Nazis or bigotry.

The takeaway is that it is better to let people know where you stand about acute cultural issues than stay silent.

Promote Inclusion: In times of turmoil and social injustice it’s crucial for brands to promote acceptance of diversity. This is paramount to not only building a socially just society, but also avoiding alienation of core customers.

In response to the recent horrific incident in Virginia, PayPal and other financial service providers committed to preventing hate groups like ‘Unite the Right’ from transferring funds via their networks.

“We are dedicated to providing financial services to people with a diversity of views and from all walks of life,” PayPal wrote in response to Charlottesville.

Ultimately, brands that welcome diversity and actively support inclusivity will resonate with larger demographics and gain positive PR.

Utilize core capabilities to scale impact: An excellent way to use your brand for social good is to leverage your products and services to have a positive impact.

After the recent hateful outcry, global giants like Google, Twitter and Facebook have restricted the reach of and shut down numerous accounts promoting bigotry, Nazism, and white supremacy.

Critics argue that restricting who can say what on the internet is a breach of freedom of speech; however, tech companies are legally justified to have their own code of ethics, such as Community Standards, which condemn hate speech.

The lesson here is that by taking full advantage of your company’s core capabilities you can amplify your brand’s impact on cultural movements, which also ultimately increases positive word of mouth advertising.

Tragic cultural crises like Charlottesville open doors for corporate social action. Brands that actively take a stand, promote inclusion, and utilize their core capabilities to scale social justice strengthen brand image, gain earned media and build consumer goodwill.

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