Are You Building A Brand Of Contradictions?

As brands continue to try and navigate a world of awakening and change, its clear they are on a learning journey. With plenty of opportunities to learn, from women’s rights, climate change, homelessness, immigration, and now racial equality. It’s impossible to be against any of these issues. So why do brands feel the need to state the obvious?

As Mark Ritson writes in a scathing and powerful MarketingWeek article, “We marketers live in a branding bubble of our own creation. We think brands matter. That our brand matters. We think advertising is important. We think other people care. And with each passing year our branding bubble appears to become less and less transparent. An increasing proportion of marketers lose touch with the consumers they are meant to take their coordinates from, and fall for the bullsh*t that their brands and their communications make any kind of difference to society at large – and that this impact is a crucial part of their job.”

I think brands matter a great deal. But I also think actions speak louder than words, or inexpensive GIFs that can be spun up in seconds and posted to social media with little effort and even less accountability. Let’s look at some examples:

Joining a chorus of brands, Amazon statement said that “inequitable and brutal treatment of Black people in our country must stop” and promised to “stand in solidarity with the Black community—our employees, customers, and partners—in the fight against systemic racism and injustice.” But what about that time they fired a black contractor for asking about the Coronavirus? Or that time they tried to smear a warehouse organizer as “not smart or articulate.”

A Vice article shares how Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted something similar, stating the company “stands in solidarity with the Black community and with peaceful protests against the injustice and racism that have plagued our nation for too long.” To that end, he announced a $1 million donation to two racial justice think tanks “to support their work in making criminal justice in America more just for all.” Yet in the background, Uber is fighting legislation that would reclassify their workforce and entitle them to benefits such as health insurance and minimum wage. With a large number of minorities comprising the workforce, how solid is that solidarity?

Ritson’s article in MarketingWeek includes numerous examples of our most highly cherished brands: Apple, Nike, Adidas, Spotify, L’Oreal – each of which has professed strong alignment to the movement for racial justice, even donating money to associated causes, yet all of their senior leadership remains white. Riston clarifies, “I am not saying that companies have to have black people in their leadership teams as a general policy. But if you believe what you are telling the market about black voices, it should start with switching out some of your white executives in your upper echelons for executives of color. Not because these people are bad. Not because you have to encourage more diversity in the boardroom. But because you are claiming to care about black issues and black representation – so do something meaningful about it.”

In a tweet, writer and brand strategist Vikki Ross shares how she answered one of her clients who asked “should we change our logo?” with a series of pointed questions that’s worth reading, internalizing and spending some time thinking upon:

Do you support the cause? Or do you want to look like you do?
Do you always support the cause? Or do you support the cause when it is trending?
If you change your logo to support the cause, when do you change it back?
When you change your logo back, don’t you support the cause anymore?
If you can change your logo back, when will you do it?
What happens if another cause is trending? Do you change your logo again?
How do you keep up with showing support for every cause? What if you miss one?
If you keep changing your logo, what is your logo?
Should you just always do what feels like the right thing at the time? Assuming your business is always doing the right thing, whether it promotes it via its logo or not.

Yes, these are challenging times. #blackouttuesday would have been better if brands had just gone dark, and listened, and thought about the changes they will or won’t make, before rushing to deploy content and messaging. We know there is hurt, and we know most of the people on this planet want to do something to make the hurt less. But we need to remember that actions speak louder than words.

Like people, brands need to be the change they profess to want to see.

The Blake Project Can Help: Avoid contradictions. Think it through in The Brand Positioning Workshop

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Ride-hailing giant Ola on Wednesday said it will lay off 1,400 employees due to the worsening coronavirus pandemic, even after its senior management had already taken significant salary cuts to avoid such a situation.

The company did not specify which positions or departments would be culled, but said it would be the last time any COVID-19-related cuts would be made.

"Ever since my last email to you six weeks ago, I had hoped to write again soon in better times. Unfortunately, the COVID crisis continues to unfold all around us causing unprecedented economic and social destruction. It has also become evident that the coronavirus will not be eliminated any time soon. We will rather have to learn to live with the virus and resultant implications," wrote Bhavish Aggarwal, Co-Founder and CEO of Ola, in an email to employees.

Ola cabs

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Ola's revenue has fallen nearly 95 percent over the last two months due to the lockdown, the company said, prompting it to look for ways to conserve cash aggressively. The company was allowed to resume its services in 160 cities on Tuesday.

Still, the outlook for the business is very uncertain and unclear, said Bhavish.

"It is going to take a long time for people to go out and about like before. With more companies preferring to have a large number of employees work from home, air travel limited to essential trips, and vacations being put off for better times, the impact of this crisis is definitely going to be long-drawn for us."

The world is not going to revert to the pre-COVID era anytime soon," he further wrote.

Detailing the lay off process, the company said its human resources team will have one-on-one conversations with each affected employee, and they will be walked through the various ways in which Ola will continue to support them.

Each employee will receive a minimum financial payout of three months of their fixed salary, irrespective of the notice periods. Those who have spent more time at the company will be eligible for higher payouts, depending on their tenure.

ESOPs will vest forward to the closest quarter for employees who have worked with the company for over a year. For others, the company said it will enable pro-rated vesting for the period of time spent at Ola.

Other support measures include extending the company's insurance policy cover for affected employees up to December 31, 2020, medical insurance for the departing employees' parents, access to health and emotional wellness services, as well as career support through placements.

"These decisions are not reflective of anyone’s performance and are purely a function of the uncontrollable circumstances that we have been faced with," said Bhavish.

"This will be a one time exercise and will be complete by the end of this week for our India Mobility business, and by the end of next week for Ola foods and Ola Financial Services. No more COVID-related cuts will be done after this exercise," he emphasized.

Over the two months, beginning March when the lockdown was announced, the company had launched several initiatives to support its driver partners. These included rental waivers for over 30,000 leasing drivers which helped them save nearly Rs 25,000 per month, offering zero-interest loans to support household expenses, and extending COVID-19 insurance to the drivers and their spouses.

The team also set up a Drive the Driver Fund, where over a million kilograms of essential supplies were distributed to drivers and their families, and over 500 medical emergencies – including pregnancies, dialysis, cancer-care, and neonatal cases – had been financially supported.

"As economic activity returns, so will the need for mobility, but the paradigms will have changed. This crisis is accelerating macro trends of digital commerce and clean mobility, and our businesses are well-positioned to leverage these macro trends well. I'm filled with a lot of emotion and sadness as I write this email, but also with strong hope and resolve to rebuild our business, and create the future that we envision, together," concluded Bhavish.

How has the coronavirus outbreak disrupted your life? And how are you dealing with it? Write to us or send us a video with subject line 'Coronavirus Disruption' to [email protected]

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PelosiWin McNamee/Getty Images

The House passed a $3 trillion coronavirus bailout, dubbed the HEROES Act, with a 208-199 vote.
Spanning 1,815 pages, the bill outlines a list of priorities, including another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, a raise for essential workers, and increased health insurance coverage.
Despite passage in the House, it is not likely to be backed by Senate Republicans, who have expressed disapproval of the bill.
During its unveiling by House Democrats earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the bill a “big laundry list of pet priorities” that has “no chance of becoming law.”
However, being signed into law is not entirely the mission of the HEROES Act.
“Instead, its passage was meant for Democrats to demonstrate their priorities and signal what they will fight for in a later bipartisan bill that could pass in June,” Business Insider’s Kimberly Leonard reported.
Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The House passed a second $3 trillion bill aimed at providing relief and support to those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic on Friday.

The bill, known as the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or the HEROES Act, follows the first coronavirus bailout signed into law in late March with bipartisan support, the CARES Act.See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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