Monday, January 14

Advertisers Are Trashing Trump's Shutdown

We know advertisers taking a stand is risky business — especially in the age of Trump, with his angry army of disciples poised to attack any brand that dares challenge their dear leader. Even though it alienated many Americans who secured their place in the Charles Darwin Hall of Fame by setting fire to sneakers they'd already purchased, Nike siding with Colin Kaepernick's protest against the criminal treatment of minorities resonated positively with many, many more consumers and ending up making for arguably last year's best ad. The year prior, Pepsi's lame attempt at supporting the #BlackLivesMatter movement by way of a spot that enlisted noted civil rights warrior Kendall Jenner made for one of the biggest marketing screw-ups of all time. Then, there are those ads that fall somewhere in the middle of success and failure — take 84 Lumber's brave Super Bowl spot from a couple of years back that took a forceful jab at Trump's wall, an incredibly moving and bold move for the retailer's first appearance in the big game but one whose entire point was subsequently ruined by the company's CEO who, kowtowing to critics threatening a boycott, released a statement saying an ad that was clearly political wasn't really intended to be political. Now comes the latest advertiser to court controversy, this time over the longest government shutdown in history. Columbia Sportswear placed a full-page ad in the Washington Post urging Congress and Trump to "Make America's Parks Open Again." (The brand played it safe by blaming both sides — even though everybody knows it's really all Trump's fault.) As Fortune notes, it's not the first time an advertiser has had the courage to call out Trump for his regressive policies — and unlike 84 Lumber's lily-livered CEO, stick to their guns — with Tiffany, Patagonia and REI all coming out against one or the other of the president's cruel policies. Again, seeing as advertisers' first priority is selling stuff and building affinity among consumers, walking into the crossfire of public debate can be dicey. But consider the Edelman study last year that found that two-thirds of consumers want companies to align themselves with social causes, a double-digit increase from the prior year. P&G, Airbnb and Stella Artois are just a few of the brands that have taken a stand on issues ranging from immigration and gender equality to the environment. So, taking a stand can be worth the risk. Marketing guru Nirmalya Kumar once wrote that while so many brands seek to be universally loved, "universal love is neither achievable nor desirable — great brands are loved by some and hated by others because they actually stand for something."