The World is Burning...But Buy Your Gas Masks from Us!
OK, the world isn't necessarily burning at this moment (correct up to press), but if the world were to begin simmering away, no doubt companies would hit their Direct Marketing email lists, get their Tweeting fingers ready, and begin flogging items that could prolong the burning for a while. "50% off Fire Extinguishers with us!"
What I'm talking about is the relentless marketing of companies in the wake of some pretty big global changes. In January, to the shock and horror of many of us, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the USA. My Twitter timeline was awash with jokes, actual horror stories based on policies he has begun to begin implementing, and marketing from brands to buy their overpriced, unnecessary products. Wait. Marketing from brands? Unrelated to the day? No jokes or puns or lampoons to try to get through the terrible day. Nope. Just regular old stale tweets.
Some companies did join the bandwagon of the inauguration, and many took jabs at Trump, some in amusing ways that did nothing to push their products. But, whether intentionally or not, they did something even better for their business. By showing they were real, they were joining the discussion the world was having, and by setting aside the barrage of marketing efforts, they showed the human side of the company. They showed the side that would be affected on a personal level by the change of President and majority in the US government. Others continued their push for post-Christmas sales. By neglecting what was happening and what would affect people, these companies did more harm than good.
Corporate social responsibility is extremely important, especially for millennial consumers who engage heavily with the social networks and are ambassadors among their peers for brands. 81% of millennials expect companies to make a push for a social issue that does some good, and 91% would be willing to swap brands for one that pushes for a cause. The Trump presidency sets to bring many social issues to the fore, many that we thought would remain in the 20th Century. Trump has already vowed to repeal Roe vs Wade to prevent legal abortions, and has begun the repeal of Obamacare, which has helped millions of vulnerable Americans. But on a level that will affect business (the lifeblood of America), the climate measures to protect the clean air and clean water are going to be removed. Businesses will no doubt be able to make as much carbon as their little machines can make, and dump their toxic waste in the Potomac River. Businesses have an important question to ask: do they abide by the new law of no environment laws, or do they do the right thing and monitor themselves. He can't force them to pollute.
These real issues are but the gateway to what a Trump presidency has in store. For a company to not take a minute to show empathy, to show it’s human colours, and acknowledge what could happen under Trump, is for a company to essentially shrug itself of any corporate social responsibility. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few weeks when the Tweeter-in-Chief unleashes those grubby fingers on those who stand against him.
Should companies be 'real'? Or should business go on as usual?