North Texas Daily

What companies have done to mock activism

What companies have done to mock activism

What companies have done to mock activism
June 27
21:15 2017

Amanda Lee | Staff Writer

When purchasing a certain luxury handbag or shop at a certain retail store, we no longer focus just on the sales or location. More than ever, we now consider the political views of companies before we give them our money.

People view companies as agents of change rather than simply suppliers of goods. The brands people choose to condone reflect more than just their tastes – it reflects their morals. Now, the actions and policies of corporations affect buyers’ attitudes more than their advertising.

Cue brand activism.

Before this era, companies typically focused their advertising on how their product outperformed rivals, or how it appeared more desirable. With a change in what consumers consider important in buying certain products, companies have naturally taken the hint.

Now, we see marketing advocating for or against societal issues. On June 21, Coors Light introduced a can with rainbow font – announcing through their Tap into Change program, with every purchase of Coors at select bars, 15 cents will be donated to a local LGBTQ charity. Dove participates in “real beauty” campaigns advocating for women’s beauty of all shapes and ethnicities, instead of focusing on the effectiveness of their soaps.

Such brands receive enormous support from advocates, as well as backlash from disagreeing consumers. Regardless, there is a right and a wrong way to participate in brand activism and recently, we’ve been exposed to companies who use serious social issues for profit and mock their aims.

Dolce and Gabbana is the latest brand to attempt profiting through mocking activism. After it was found Dolce and Gabbana had ties to Melania Trump, some consumers advocated for a boycott of the brand. Knowing this, the brand decided to capitalize on this movement and produce $245 T-shirts saying “#BoycottDolce&Gabbana.”

While some find a company “boycotting itself” humorous, the brand is clearly mocking activists. At a time when our country is severely divided, protests are an essential means for voices to be heard. Attempting to monetize a poor public relations situation, the company threw caution to the wind and mocked the consumers who disavowed their company as well as the power and respectability of protests everywhere.

Hip-hop artist Raury recently walked in a fashion show for the company and ripped his garment off in his own protest. While on the Dolce and Gabbana runway, Raury’s bare chest read, “I am not your scapegoat” and “protest D&G.” Raury later told GQ Magazine he thought he was brought into the show to cool tensions among the young people, hence his comment about not being a scapegoat. Raury felt personally offended by the company’s mockery of boycotting, noting his Georgia upbringing, where the Ku Klux Klan was born.

Pepsi is a consistent offender. Many of their ads have been removed due to controversial content, but its most recent ad takes the cake. This commercial seemed to imply a simple celebrity like Kendall Jenner could single-handedly end societal issues by handing a policeman a soda. As if the racial situations at hand are so minor they can be resolved with a cool, carbonated beverage. Also, why is Kendall Jenner used at all? What activism has she been involved in? Once again, an able-bodied, straight white woman has come to the rescue of every marginalized group.

Powerful imagery within the commercial mirrored events of Black Lives Matter protests. However, instead of featuring those protesters, we are given Kendall Jenner.

Not only is the commercial offensive, its aims were to profit from the struggles of marginalized groups. Noting the trend of political unrest among young Americans, Pepsi decided to capitalize. By using out-of-touch celebrities to convey a message, Pepsi admitted their noncommittal to the issues at hand. A real concern for the marginalized and oppressed groups would have resulted in a commercial that used real protesters and possibly involved a raw scenario. Instead, we were given the message that society’s worst problems can be solved by a drink-wielding white woman of the 1 percent.

It is naïve to think all brand activism stems from a place of true compassion. Obviously, some companies recognize the monetary value of taking stands on certain issues. But companies like Patagonia that advocate for environmental responsibility, and Ben and Jerry’s which publicly supports the Black Lives Matter Movement, do so tastefully with change in mind. Companies like Pepsi who capitalize on strife and mock activism are dug graves by consumers with a social conscience.

Companies are no longer mere suppliers of products. In the eyes of the consumer, they are a means for social change. Major corporations can either hop on board tastefully or dig their own graves.

Featured Illustration: Samuel Wiggins

About Author

Preston Mitchell

Preston Mitchell

Preston served as the Opinion Editor of the North Texas Daily from July 2016 to July 2017, and is a UNT graduate of integrative studies.

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