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Brands Are So Full Of It

Brands sure love talking about their purpose. Unilever, under outgoing CMO Keith Weed, has perhaps been the poster brand for this trend, that of talking up a products’ earthy attributes.

The package goods giant has been trying to make the case that purpose is good for business (it paid for research to show that its ‘Sustainability’ initiative drove sales).

Weed told Business Insider that 70% of its growth comes from sustainable products – meaning that these products are sourced from sustainable sources. Which surely means something.

I don’t mean to pick on Unilever. There are hundreds of brands riding the purpose wave. And most of them come off as deeply insincere in light of what’s been going on in the broader media world.

It’s wonderful that the company’s soap or shampoo has less of a carbon footprint, I suppose. But you’d think that company that is so concerned with the planet would be just as purposeful in how it views humanity.

What do I mean? Well, how can marketing giants boast of trying to do right by the world, yet keep pumping money toward Fox News?

Have you been paying attention to all the wonderful Tucker Carlson comments from radio shows over the years that have been recently unearthed? There’s the time he ripped Iraqis, or called women “dogs” and “primitive”, or seemed to downplay statutory rape?

Sure, some of those remarks are over a decade old. Ok, but what about the kind of drivel Carlson spouts on Fox News right now? This is a guy who in recent months questioned whether immigration is a good thing for the US at all, and whether immigrants make our society dirty?

Yes, I know, lots of advertisers have pulled ads from his show for now. But they’ve only moved their ads and budgets around Fox News. They haven’t choked off spending on Fox. They are still paying the network – not punishing the suits that pay Carlson’s salary? What’s the purpose of that?

It’s of course, not just Carlson. Advertisers are directly or indirectly paying for Laura Ingraham, which has vilely chastised the Parkland teenagers (she lost some advertisers last year, but most are back), along with Jeanine Pirro, who pretty much questioned whether Muslims can be real Americans.

Somehow, advertisers are ok sustaining all this hate. How brave is that exactly?

Before you start screaming, there are lots of great journalists and other normal, regular-not-horrible people at Fox News. And yes, there should be conservative voices and news coverage on TV. The network’s massive success shows that was a missed opportunity for too long in the mainstream media.

But you either have principles or you don’t. ‘Susty‘ brands have been more than quick to pull their ads from YouTube for long stretches when the site ends up getting spotted with videos that appeal to Nazis or pedophiles or other vile folks, which makes sense. Except it sure seems like brands acted in that case because they were embarrassed by the association, not because they really cared. Otherwise, wouldn’t they all pull money from Facebook in light of fake news?

How about CBS, which by all accounts let former CEO Les Moonves get away with disgusting, predatory behavior for years? Did you see any brands dare put the highly-rated network in a spending time out?

After all, the only way things change at these companies is if brands exert their spending leverage.

Leverage is why they’ve chosen purpose-driven marketing in the first place. If they didn’t change their ways, or at least pretend to, then younger more eco-conscious consumers were going to start rejecting them for upstarts.

So they pivoted, since it drove the bottom line. Which is the only purpose brands ever seem to serve.





Header photo via Pexels