Food is political
With every mouthful we make decisions about other people’s lives, one way or another
Historically, consumers embraced supermarkets and accepted the range of goods on the shelves with a ‘how marvellous; look at all this choice at such cheap prices’ comment. Each can or packet appeared to exist in a vacuum. No one ever asked if tea pickers were being subjected to pesticide poisoning or were working long hours in poor conditions. The product was on the shelves that was the top and bottom of it.
In 2021 that mindset is completely different
If you can afford to, you can make choices about buying ‘Fairtrade’ products, organic, locally sourced, clean eating, ethically sourced, vegan et al. However, one choice you can make, regardless of income is whether to support an organisation or not by patronising its supermarkets full stop. Right now, Sainsbury’s has just walked into a storm of its own making. If you want to know how to successfully ‘trash’ a brand, then follow the #silentSainsburys hashtag on Twitter
When businesses decide to advertise with another brand then due diligence is essential
A number of questions must be asked; it’s an interrogation if you like. Fail to do this and literally anything can happen. For example, should you make the decision to align yourself to a brand new commercial tv station? If so, what would you need to know to protect your own brand and reputation?
Does a media outlet align with your own brand beliefs?
For a start it might be worth considering its political leaning and whether opinion expressed on the station aligns with your own brand messaging. For example, if your CEO puts out a ‘We all have a responsibility to help build on equal society, free from racial discrimination and there’s still a long way to go.’ message in May 2021, then how does that align with GB News editorial decision making process exactly?
This is going to run and run
Led By Donkeys is a British, anti-Brexit political campaign group. They utilise satire targeted at pro-Brexit politicians. The group began in December 2018 and the four founders have been regularly calling out "thermonuclear hypocrisy". It is very important to consider their own bias but the group Led by Donkeys have posted a video which as of last week had garnered, 77.9K views. This is uncomfortable PR and brand reputation territory. The whole hashtag thread is a slew of comments like this:
The thread continued to gain momentum
Of course, we have to discuss the notion of trial by social media and whether this is democratic or not but that is another question that needs its own thesis. Also what appears to be huge on Twitter is just another conversation or hashtag. However you choose to argue the toss on this one, there is a massive wave of negativity crashing over Sainsbury right now and some profound questions need to be put to the C suite. Protecting a brand with careful, thoughtful, transparent, and compassionate policies and messaging is key in contemporary commerce. This is not the first ‘trial by social media’ we have witnessed recently. Ben & Jerry’s were ‘encouraged’ to stop selling in Israeli settlements. But Florida’s governor said that it would not support Unilever financially unless it gets the B&J subsidiary to reverse its decision regarding ice cream sales in the West Bank. He went on to say:
“As a matter of law and principle, the state of Florida will not tolerate discrimination against the state of Israel or the Israeli people,” DeSantis said in a news release. “I will not stand idly by as woke corporate ideologues seek to boycott and divest from our ally, Israel.”
However, since first preparing this article Sainsbury's has stopped advertising on GB news stating that the ‘multi-channel TV campaign has now ended.’ They went on to say that “Our customers’ feedback is very important to us, and we continue to regularly review our marketing activity.”
The pressure on them increased as Led by Donkeys created a video for social media that attracted over 2.5 million views and put up billboards outside Sainsbury's HQ. They see this as a coup and have tweeted that after ‘escalating pressure, Sainsburys did the right thing.’
Brand dominance can no longer be taken for granted
For sure it is clear that being more aware of consumer sentiment and understanding the impact of making poor advertising decisions are key considerations. Brand dominance can no longer be taken for granted. Consumers have more of a vested interest in where they place their money and it will be interesting to see how companies respond. It's certainly increasingly complex but as generation Z starts to move into more important roles in the workplace their need to be good global citizens and also their interest in diversity, inclusion, gender, and orientation will affect how companies behave. Marketing and branding will have to reflect behaviours. It is not just rhetoric. Whatever we do, whatever we say we, will have to be thought about carefully before we do either. Perhaps we also need to consider how this might affect our ability to express our own opinion. Are we approaching a new ‘puritanism’ or approach to censorship? That is food for thought indeed.
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