2017 – The Year Brands Dared to Speak Up

2017 was rough, ya’ll. There’s some collective trauma no matter what side of the aisle or world you’re on. I mean, case and point – the US government basically admitted to the existence of UFOs and somehow it didn’t feel like breaking news? It seems easier to tune out and remain numb than engage with or act on every injustice we faced this year. Au contraire, we’re at a boiling point, people are mad as hell and that’s translating into something kind of beautiful. Women are speaking up and Time Magazine named “The Silence Breakers” as their people of the year. Professors were arrested protesting Trump’s decision to eliminate DACA. And Alabama rose up to block Roy Moore and elect their first democrat senator in 25 years – Doug Wilson. Apathy is waning and giving way to action. Brands are no exception. They’re realizing that if they haven’t taken a stance and stood for something that aligns with their values by now, they’re way behind. That’s why, for my last post of 2017, I chose 5 key issues (definitely not an exhaustive list, I admit) that America faces and the brands that did a stellar job addressing and taking actions on those issues.

Refugees & Travel Ban – Airbnb #weaccept

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After Trump issued the travel ban earlier this year, Airbnb founder Brian Cheskey tweeted that they would offer free housing to those affected. They followed that up (less than a week later) with a promise to continue supporting displaced people affected by war, disaster, and political mandates. Airbnb relies on people opening up their homes to strangers which is why this issue is at the core of their being. Their swift reaction sets an example for how to react earnestly to political news that disrupts the core of their company’s mission.

Environmental protection – Patagonia Fights for National Monuments

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On December 4, 2017, Trump signed proclamations to shrink the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Soon after the news came out, Patagonia made the daring move of changing their homepage (around the holidays no less) to ask visitors to learn about the unprecedented move through a beautiful video and take action by telling the administration they’re against the proclamation. It doesn’t stop there – they are standing with environmental groups to challenge trump’s decision in court. Patagonia’s activist roots run deep and this is an example of how far they’ll go to protect the land that they and their customers explore.

Women’s Rights – Boeing “Women Make Us Better”

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I came across this video on the Facebook feed and it made me stop in my tracks. It’s beautiful in its simplicity. Boeing Engineers read letters in response to women inquiring about engineering programs almost 100 years ago. Their reactions seems genuine and through their sighs and eye rolls, I felt their quiet, but palpable outrage. Boeing did the right thing by putting their female engineers front and center – letting them tell the story of frustration that so many women in male-dominated careers encounter on a daily basis. The company is also walking the talk  – they’ve partnered with STEM organizations to invest in community programs that inspire young women to pursue a career in math and science.

Racism – P&G “The Talk”

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P&G’s powerful spot highlights black parents across decades having talks with their children about the injustice they faced or may face in the future.  They received harsh criticism and praise for their approach. I’m sure this wasn’t a surprise to P&G – the reactions mirror the divisiveness our country faces everyday. I commend them for taking the risk to address a complicated issue that a lot of other companies shy away from. It pulls back the curtain on difficult conversations and through its intimate portrayal, shines a light on the realities of raising a black child in America.

Gun Control – Sandy Hook Promise – “Tomorrow’s News”

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So, I searched and searched and couldn’t find one example of a company publicly  advocating for gun control. This surprised me, especially considering the Vegas shooting on October 1 was the deadliest mass shooting in US history. Of course, companies tweet their condolences and stand with victims, but from what I can tell, none are actively promoting gun control or fighting for legislation to enact common sense gun laws. Perhaps it’s too far removed from their core values or the debate is too politically charged to take a stance. Non-profit organizations are picking up the slack. A great example is Sandy Hook Promise’s “Tomorrow’s News” spot by BBDO New York. It creatively highlights inaction leading up to these tragic events. This follows a 2016 spot called “Evan” that demonstrates how we can overlook the warning signs of a school shooter.

It will be interesting to see what brands step up in 2018. I have a feeling I’ll have an even more exhaustive list this time next year.

 

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