Social activism brand and marketing risk - selected weekly updates

For the past week, MSA monitoring identified 47 discrete brand risk events.  These brand risk events impacted an array of diverse firms -- from well-known, publicly traded corporations to mid-sized, private firms.  Below we’ve selected some representative brand risk event press reports to help you stay current and informed.  Contact us for more information about our service offerings.


LEVI STRAUSS jumps into gun debate calling for stricter gun control laws. 

Levi Strauss joins Dick's Sporting Goods, Walmart and Kroger Co. who previously waded into the issue following the school shooting in February at Parkland, Florida. Their responses were met with praise by gun control advocates and criticism from gun-rights advocates. Link


TESLA equity and debt values crash after CEO Musk’s bizarre behavior. 

Key person problems are mushrooming at Tesla. Tesla share prices took a hit amounting to as much as 10 percent, after billionaire CEO Elon Musk took a hit off what looked like a marijuana stogie during a YouTube talk show.  Link


NIKE features NFL outcast and anthem protester Colin Kapernick as the new face of their iconic “Just Do It” campaign, sparking outrage.      

The anthem kneeling protest is among the most fraught controversies of our time, according to data from Morning Consult, which found that, among Trump voters, wading into the issue is potentially more hurtful to a brand (58%) than being negative about Trump himself (55%). And 71% of Trump voters said they're less likely to buy from a company that supports kneeling... Link


EMIRATES AIRLINES boards ill passengers on New York-bound flight, landing many in the hospital.   

Because the Emirates flight is so long, it's possible that there was ongoing transmission on it, according to Dr. Oxiris Barbot, acting NYC health commissioner. That specific scenario rarely happens, but the flu -- which can take one to three days to incubate -- does spread easily.  Link


ASPEN SKIING CO. launches politically-charged campaign supporting climate change candidates. 

Aspen Snowmass is launching an edgy advertising campaign encouraging skiers and snowboarders to take action on climate change. The slogan 'Give a Flake' is a play on words that is more of a call to action about a controversial topic. Link

Social activism brand and marketing risk - selected weekly updates

For the past week, MSA monitoring identified 51 discrete brand risk events.  These brand risk events impacted an array of diverse firms -- from well-known, publicly traded corporations to mid-sized, private firms.  Below we’ve selected some representative brand risk event press reports to help you stay current and informed.  Contact us for more information about our service offerings.


IN & OUT BURGER boycott, called by California Democrat leader, fizzles.

Boycott authenticity matters.  “Eating at In-N-Out is such a standard thing to do across California,” said Anthony Grigore, a Democrat, dismissing the boycott idea as a bit silly.   Link


NETFLIX endures protests after “Made in Mexico” cast is revealed to be nine wealthy light-skinned socialites.

Made in Mexico follows the lavish lives of a Mexico City set but critics say the focus on the rich has come at the wrong time and the show's stars don't represent what the average Mexican person looks like. Link


BARNES & NOBLE CEO was fired months ago.  The reason: sexual harassment and bullying.      

Barnes & Noble’s board said in a statement that Mr. Parneros had been “terminated for sexual harassment, bullying behavior and other violations of company policies.” Until Tuesday, the company had said only that he was terminated for violating policies, without further explanation except to say they were not related to financial matters...  Link


WELLS FARGO demands that Bloomberg News reporter be re-assigned.

The bank is continually in the brand risk headlines.  This time, CEO Tim Sloan demanded a reporter be reassigned after a story ran describing the bank the "preferred financier for the U.S. gun industry" and detailed the bank's relationship with the National Rifle Association.  Link


AMAZON AND PALANTIR ICE contracts drive protests at Burning Man.

"We hope to really both raise awareness but also start to have folks understand how these tech companies are contributing to this in efforts to be able to get Amazon to drop Palantir from its cloud and stop collaborating with these tremendous human rights abuses that we are witnessing," Link

Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected weekly updates

For the past week, MSA monitoring identified 44 discrete brand risk events.  These brand risk events impacted an array of diverse firms -- from well-known, publicly traded corporations to mid-sized, private firms.  Below we’ve selected some representative brand risk event press reports to help you stay current and informed.  Contact us for more information about our service offerings.


PEPSICO is facing a boycott after announced acquisition of Soda Stream. 

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, said that SodaStream was still “subject to the boycott” in the movement for equal Palestinian rights.  And, accordingly, Pepsico is at risk.   Link


SAM ADAMS BEER boycott supported by Boston city councilor.   

City Councilor and congressional candidate Ayanna Pressley offered her support for Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone’s boycott of the Boston Beer Company, after the maker of Sam Adams praised President Trump’s tax cuts. Link


CREDIT SUISSE fires two bankers for harassment claim from 8 years ago.   

The victim has left the company, but in January, 2018 was inspired by the #MeToo movement...  Link 


SALESFORCE employee protests expand outside firm to activist organizations.  

Salesforce, the Silicon Valley cloud computing giant, is being targeted by activists hoping to force the company to end its contract with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) amid accusations that the agency is violating human rights.  Link


VERIZON sued by feds for slowing data speeds, hampering California wildfire response. 

Santa Clara County Fire Capt. Bill Murphy told CNN that the department's connection speed dropped to what you would expect from a dial-up service, making simple tasks like sending an email or updating a Google document almost impossible.  "The Internet has become an essential tool in providing fire and emergency response, particularly for events like large fires. ” Link

Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected weekly updates

For the past week, MSA monitoring identified 38 discrete brand risk events.  These brand risk events impacted an array of diverse firms -- from well-known, publicly traded corporations to mid-sized, private firms.  Below we’ve selected some representative brand risk event press reports to help you stay current and informed.  Contact us for more information about our service offerings.


You Tube is contending with an epidemic of fake “views” – the key measurement used to determine advertising payments in a significant “Brand Safety” exposure for parent company, Google, and importantly, advertisers. 

“The problem itself was extraordinary,” said Blake Livingston, a member of YouTube’s fraud and abuse team at the time who has since left the company.  But fixes were made that relieved the fake-traffic surge, which YouTube said resulted from an attack against the website.  Years later, the battle against fake views continues, even as YouTube contends with disinformation campaigns, like Russia’s efforts during the 2016 election, and language it considers hate speech… Still, with the platform registering billions of views a day, tens of millions of fake views could be making it through daily…”

 You Tube battles fake views. The New York Times. August 11, 2018


3G Capital encounters “Alpha Brand Risk” – as they watch KraftHeinz shares slump and brands falter. .

“...But the firm's (3G Capital) co-founder Jorge Paulo Lemann said its business model of buying strong consumer brands is facing new difficulties from upstarts.  "We bought brands that we thought could last forever," he said at the Milken Institute Global Conference earlier this year, according to Forbes. "You could just focus on being very efficient. (But) all of a sudden we are being disrupted...”

KraftHeinz shares fall as 3G trims stake citing disruption. CNBC. August 8, 2018


 More scandals erupt at troubled Wells Fargo.  Is “brand risk” fatigue setting in?

"The announcement was just the latest in what’s amounted to a two-year streak of bad news for the bank, dating to its first admission regarding its phony-accounts scandal in September 2016. But unlike the storm of criticism directed at the bank nearly two years ago, which resulted in a change of CEO's at Wells, the media reaction to the most recent revelation was barely a blip…”

More trouble at Wells Fargo, but does anybody still care? American Banker. August 13, 2018


The CTA’s Consumer Electronics Show, slammed over the lack of women speakers, names IBM’s Ginni Rometty as keynoter for 2019. 

“The CTA announced Wednesday that Ginni Rometty, IBM’s chairman, president and CEO, will kick off the annual consumer-tech conference in Las Vegas in an address on Jan. 8, 2019. Rometty previously delivered a keynote at CES 2016, the last time the trade show featured female keynoters.  Rometty’s selection comes after a backlash against the CTA’s all-male keynote lineup for CES 2018, coming after no women were featured the previous year, either.…”

Backlash prompts CTA to invite IBM's Rometty. Variety. August 1, 2018


Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected weekly updates

For the past week, MSA monitoring identified 38 discrete brand risk events.  These brand risk events impacted an array of diverse firms -- from well-known, publicly traded corporations to mid-sized, private firms.  Below we’ve selected some representative brand risk event press reports to help you stay current and informed.  Contact us for more information about our service offerings.


In the midst of “re-launching” their brand and firm after years of scandal, fines and lawsuits, Wells Fargo still has a way to go to set things right.

“Friday afternoon (8/3/18), when no one was supposed to pay attention, Wells Fargo filed its 10-Q quarterly report with the SEC. It’s under “Note 13: Legal Actions,” which starts on page 122 and drags on for four small-print pages. “Note 13” contains Wells Fargo’s long rap sheet of disclosed ongoing government investigations and law suits in alphabetical order. The new item is on page 123:  Various unnamed government agencies – it didn’t disclose how many agencies or which agencies – are probing a new matter related to how the bank does business, this time its use of low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC), which is a multi-billion-dollar business for Wells Fargo…”

Wells Fargo - new investigation on low income tax credits. Wolf Street. August 6, 2018


Due Diligence and Brand Risk: Introducing the “Weinstein Clause.” 

“Advisers are adding guarantees to certain merger agreements in light of the sexual misconduct scandals that have enveloped the producer Harvey Weinstein and other high-profile businessmen -- ones that legally vouch for the behavior of a company’s leadership.  The development is a concrete example of how business is trying to adapt to the #MeToo era, at least in terms of legal liability…”

Weinstein Clause creeps into deals as wary buyers seek cover.  Bloomberg News. August 1, 2018


Some brands have evolved a political identity – and that comes with attendant risk.

"There is very little commonality between consumers from different ideological beliefs over what type of news, information and even entertainment they like to consume in comparison to the types of places they like to buy food or shop…”

Axios Media Trends.  Axios. August 7, 2018.


Brand Safety issues continue to plague digital advertisers – this time Kingsford BBQ Briquets and the City of Miami are victimized. 

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But when it appears adjacent to the wrong editorial content, it can cost millions.  Consider the real-world ad placements depicted here. The one on the left shows a banner ad for Kingsford’s BBQ briquettes running on top of a home page featuring a story about a Detroit couple going to prison for “grilling” a toddler…”

Brand Safety issues and RTB House's solution. Media Post. August 6, 2018

Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected weekly updates

For the past week, MSA identified 33 discrete brand risk events with our monitoring technology.  These brand risk events included an array of diverse firms, from very large, well-known publicly traded corporations to mid-sized, private firms.  Below, we’ve selected some representative brand risk event press reports to help you stay current and informed.  MSA’s weekly risk event summary is available on a subscription basis.  Contact us for more information.


OneUnited Bank in Boston is attempting to combine banking with socio-economic issues, in a rare example of a firm exploiting activism as a business opportunity.

“In celebration of Immigrant Heritage Month, OneUnited Bank, the nation’s largest Black bank, has released a statement in support of the immigrant community currently under intense national scrutiny. Concurrently, the bank releases the Justice Card featuring on its face a young black woman, just out in solidarity and draped in flags to celebrate cultures that are the mosaic of America. The artwork, created by internationally celebrated muralist Addonis Parker, is a strong addition to the Bank’s Visa Debit Card collection supporting the #BankBlack movement…”

OneUnited Bank supports immigrants and releases "Justice Card." OneUnited Bank Press Release.


Kellogg’s experiences a major brand and product execution risk event:  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention issues warning about Honey Smacks cereal.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a popular Kellogg's cereal has been linked to a salmonella outbreak that has infected 100 people in 33 states...…”

The CDC says - don't eat this cereal! ABC News. July 13, 2018


The digital advertising industry focuses on brand safety with the launch of the “Brand Safety Institute.”  Among the items on their agenda is encouraging the development of a new corporate role: the Brand Safety Officer.

"When you ask industry leaders to describe their biggest brand safety challenges, it's like the blind men and the elephant, as each sector of our industry describes a slightly different, yet interrelated, set of problems," said Mike Zaneis, CEO of TAG and Co-Founder of BSI. "The brand safety issue is complicated, multi-faceted, and quickly-evolving…”

Introducing the Brand Safety Institute. BSI Press Release. July 25, 2018


The Martin Agency, a unit of Interpublic (NYSE: IPG), is radically changing the firm’s culture with a new CEO, a new department, and new hires.  

“…the holding company (IPG) installed a new CEO at the agency, Kristen Cavallo, who in turn, did her own weeding out of the old guard at the agency.  And she quickly took steps to double the representation of female leaders on the agency’s executive committee. She’s also taken steps to close the gender pay gap at the agency and get involved with other movements to promote gender equality, like #FreeTheBid and Times Up Advertising…”

 The Martin Agency continues to evolve its culture. Media Post. July 15, 2018

Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected weekly updates

For the past week, MSA identified 34 brand risk events with our monitoring technology.  These brand risk events included an array of diverse firms, from very large, well-known publicly traded corporations to mid-sized, private firms.  Below, we’ve selected some representative brand risk event press reports to help you stay current and informed.  MSA’s weekly risk event summary is available on a subscription basis.  Contact us for more information.


After being attacked on social media for supporting anti-LGBTQ organizations, Chick-fil-A responded.  The company showed that the Chick-fil-A Foundation supports a diverse array of youth sports and educational programs nationwide.

“Chick-fil-A’s politics re-emerged in the public eye on June 9 when Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey promoted his mobile payment service, Square, by showing he ate at Chick-fil-A, only to be pummeled on social media for supporting the company during Pride Month. He later apologized, which caused an avalanche of anger from the other side of the socio-political aisle. Three days later, a Huffington Post writer called for a boycott of the chicken chain.…”

Chick-fil-A Confronts Controversy. Biz Women. July 12, 2018


Facebook is now under investigation for delayed SEC disclosure timing. Have investors received adequate and timely warnings about data breaches and operational challenges? 

“The SEC is investigating whether Facebook gave adequate warnings to its investors about data leaks like the one central to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, The Wall Street Journal reports..…”

WSJ: SEC probing Facebook on timing of data-leak disclosures. Seeking Alpha. July 12, 2018


A Wall Street banker was fired for inappropriate behavior with an intern – but sexual harassment had nothing to do with it.   New workplace behavior rules are re-making corporate America.

"The dismissal of a single banker at a single bank might seem inconsequential in this #MeToo era. Yet Mr. Dexter's rise and fall encapsulates the new realities in an industry that has long celebrated big egos and chest-thumping bravado. It shows how a complaint about one incident is increasingly likely to set off a broader investigation and unearth others, upending a career…”

A Credit Suisse banker, an intern and a reckoning for Wall Street culture.  Financial Review. July 12, 2018


A line of “The Handmaid’s Tale” wines, inspired by the Hulu television series, has been cancelled after launching (and then recalling) offensive advertising, in a brand execution fiasco.

“On June 10, People announced that Lot18 would release a line of The Handmaid’s Tale-inspired wines — that is, a line inspired by a show about a totalitarian government built on the oppression, ceremonial rape, and abuse of women…”

 The Handmaid's Tale wine cancelled within 24 hours.  Vox. July 11, 2018

Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected weekly updates

#MeToo ensnares more than 400 high-profile people during the past 6 months – and nearly half of them have left their jobs.

“Among 417 people accused, 193 were fired or left their jobs. Another 122 have been put on leave, suspended or are facing investigations since December 2016. For about 69 people, there were no repercussions. In recent months, the rate of accusations has been slowing but the percentage of people being fired has increased…”

The #MeToo Movement is changing corporate America.  Bloomberg. June 25, 2018


Serial offender H&M returns to the brand risk headlines: H&M workers wage street protest to demand better pay, better hours, and better benefits. 

“About 100 H&M employees demonstrated outside its Herald Square flagship store Wednesday seeking guaranteed hours for part-timers, a 50-cent-an-hour raise for staffers who’ve been with the fast-fashion retailer for more than three years, and more time between shifts for workers who both close and open stores.…”

H&M workers protest wages, benefits and may seek union representation.  The NY Daily News. June 27, 2018


Socio-economic “alignment risk” is now being taken seriously by institutional investors.

"Institutional investors are beginning to ask more questions about sexual harassment incidents and settlements at their underlying asset managers, and brand name managers are taking swift action – including termination – against employees who have shown a history of poor behavior, according to Andrew Borowiec, Executive Director of the Investment Management Due Diligence Association (IMDDA).…”

IMDDA inaugural survey shows new due diligence concerns. PR Newswire. June 27, 2018


Influential software engineers in Google’s cloud division surprised their superiors by refusing to work on a cutting-edge security feature…and Google lost the government contract.

“(Google Cloud Chief) Diane Greene and other Google executives will have to persuade employees it’s possible to bid for government contracts without violating Google’s new ethical standards. After pledging not to renew the Project Maven contract, which involves using artificial intelligence to analyze drone footage, the company issued a set of AI principles this month that prohibit weapons work. …”

 Google engineers refused to build security tool to win military contracts.  Bloomberg.  June 21, 2018

Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected weekly updates

58% of corporate marketers and CMO’s are more concerned about “Brand Safety” this year versus last year.

“As long as prominent media headlines call out fake news and offensive content, pressure will continue to mount on content publishers and platforms to address brand safety concerns – and provide effective solutions,” the report warned.  According to the survey findings, advertisers have taken it upon themselves to come up with a range of solutions, with just 3% reporting that they have no action plans…”

Brand Safety concerns continue to grow. WARC. June 11 2018


Key Person brand risk event engulfs WPP:  longtime CEO Martin Sorrell’s resignation clouded by allegations of sex favor payments and staff bullying.

“Claims have emerged that WPP staff said they witnessed the 73-year-old entering a premises used by sex workers, leading to concerns that the alleged visit was paid for with company money.  The report, in the Financial Times, was accompanied by further allegations from inside WPP about his use of company resources and that he created a “fear culture” by bullying staff…”

WPP's Sorrell saga takes a tawdry turn.  The Guardian. June 12 2018


Marketing and how the need for “calculated risk-taking” is more important today in a low-growth environment.

"To innovate, by definition, means to risk. In his provocative book, Against the Gods, Peter Bernstein argues that there are five responses when confronted with risk: avoid it, reduce it, transfer it, accept it, or increase it. Avoiding risk altogether would be the demise of any company…”

All Profit is derived from risk. WARC. May 31 2018


Spotify reverses “hate speech” policy after employees and users complain.

“The company stated their primary intentions were good, but the language was vague which was misinterpreted by the majority. The blog post explained, “We don’t aim to play judge and jury. We aim to connect artists and fans – and Spotify playlists are a big part of how we do that. Our playlist editors are deeply rooted in their respective cultures, and their decisions focus on what music will positively resonate with their listeners…”

 Spotify retracts hate content policy and clarifies approach.  Music Plus.  June 5 2018

Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected weekly updates

Facebook has been banned in New Guinea.

"The Papua New Guinean government will ban Facebook for a month in a bid to crack down on “fake users” and study the effects the website is having on the population.  The communication minister, Sam Basil, said the shutdown would allow his department’s analysts to carry out research and analysis on who was using the platform, and how they were using it, admits rising concerns about social well-being, security and productivity.…”

Facebook banned in PNG to study fake users. The Guardian. May 29, 2018


The NFL issues new rule mandating player behavior during the US national anthem – new protests planned.

"Some NFL players are reportedly planning new protests during the national anthem “just to spite the NFL” in wake of the league’s new anti-kneeling policy that was announced Wednesday.  The players, who weren’t planning on demonstrating during the national anthem this season, said they were looking for way to “skirt” the new NFL rules, Sports Illustrated reported Thursday.…"

 NFL players mulling new anthem protests 'to spite' league over planned crackdown.  Fox News. May 25, 2018


Papa John’s CMO leaves the troubled pizza chain after just one year.  Papa John’s was embroiled in the NFL anthem controversy, which ultimately led to the chain being replaced as the “official pizza” of the NFL.

 "CMO Brandon Rhoten, the former VP of advertising, media, and digital/social at Wendy’s International who joined Papa John’s in late May 2017, is leaving the company at the end of the month. CEO Ritchie said he would lead the marketing department as the chain searches for a new marketing leader.…”

Papa John's CMO departs. QSR Magazine. May, 2018


Instagram and the “me too” movement: Fired CP+B CCO files $10m defamation lawsuit against 'Diet Madison Avenue'.

“In a statement Ralph Watson wrote: “Yes, I've had a one-sided trial by social media, but now I'm looking for actual justice in a real trial by bringing DMA into a public forum and requiring them to state their claims, and more importantly, their supporting evidence. I'm here to tell you they won't be able to do that. It's one thing to make reckless and anonymous accusations. It's quite another to back them up with evidence in a court of law.”

Defamation lawsuit filed against Diet Madison Avenue. The Drum. May 25, 2018.

Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected weekly updates

The National Rifle Association and the State of New York are going to court over “blacklisting” claims, as a new front in an escalating Second Amendment war opens up.

"Cuomo, NYDFS and its superintendent, Maria Vullo, whom the NRA also named as a defendant, engaged in a “campaign of selective prosecution, backroom exhortations, and public threats” to coerce banks and insurance companies to withhold services from the NRA, the group said in the suit. The suit also cites an April letter issued by NYDFS to heads of banks and insurance companies doing business in New York encouraging them to manage “reputational risk” posed by dealings with “gun promotion organizations.”…”

NRA sues NYS Gov. Cuomo over blacklisting. Reuters. May 11, 2018


Cisco pulls all ads from You Tube citing “brand safety” concerns.

"At Cisco, we would rather not wait for something bad to happen. While Google and Facebook have made some strides to combat the issue, at this time we have pulled all online advertising from YouTube until the platform has met our standards…Sensitive issues in the media do sometimes spread faster than the media platforms' algorithms can update, leading to what can be a brand-tarnishing experience…"

 Cisco pulls ads from Google's You Tube. CBS News. May 11, 2018


Both AT&T and Novartis apologize for hiring President Trump’s personal attorney for lobbying purposes.

"There is no other way to say it — AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake," AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told employees Friday.  Similarly, Novartis CEO Vasant Narasimhan wrote in a Thursday email: “We made a mistake in entering into this engagement and, as a consequence, are being criticized by a world that expects more from us.”

AT&T and Novartis apologize for Cohen decision. Politico. May 10, 2018


Gap apologizes and pulls t-shirt depicting map of China omitting Taiwan – a geo-political faux-pas which angered the Chinese government and consumers.

“The apology was triggered by complaints from consumers reacting to pictures of a Gap-branded T-shirt posted on Chinese social media network Weibo. Users pointed out that a map printed on the shirt omitted territories claimed by China, including parts of southern Tibet, Taiwan and the South China Sea…”

 Gap is the latest multinational apologizing to China. Bloomberg. May 15, 2018

Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected weekly updates

Facebook investor, Trillium Asset Management, files letter with the SEC demanding that the firm set up a risk oversight committee to better manage numerous and ongoing risks --  another example of “brand risk” rising to the level of investor concern.

"The sheer volume, magnitude, and frequency of Facebook's controversies strongly suggests that the company's whack-a-mole approach is insufficient - Facebook needs to institutionalize stronger risk oversight mechanisms," Trillium said…”

Investor urges Facebook to set up risk oversight committee. Yahoo Finance. April 18, 2018


In digital media, you get what you pay for: cheap media invites more brand placement risk.

“If you want an absolute brand safe environment, there is a cost-premium to that. There’s also a societal issue because when there’s a brand safety issue, it results in the ad being pulled and that affects the publishers involved.  We need to find a way to manage brand safety that doesn’t just lead to turning off digital spend.…”

 UM's new brand safety officer discusses risk and media. Mumbrella Asia. April 20, 2018


Yeti Coolers face boycott and videoed destruction after the cooler company seemingly cancels a National Rifle Association discounting program.  And while Yeti says it’s a mistake, NRA members are angered.

“But the damage had already been done, and NRA supporters had taken to destroying Yeti coolers in a variety of explosive ways. Some filled the cooler with Tannerite explosive rifle targets and, like Atkinson, shot it and blew it up in a field. Others shot holes through the stainless steel Yeti tumblers in their back yards or basements. One man crushed a Yeti tumbler in a vise…”

NRA supporters are blowing up Yeti coolers.  The Washington Post. April 24, 2018


Revolt led by women leads to ouster of male executives at Nike.  The footwear company adds another item to a growing list of brand risk events.

“Finally, fed up, a group of women inside Nike’s Beaverton, Ore., headquarters started a small revolt.  Covertly, they surveyed their female peers, inquiring whether they had been the victim of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Their findings set off an upheaval in the executive ranks of the world’s largest sports footwear and apparel company…”

 Nike women rebel. The New York Times. April 28, 2018

Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected weekly updates

More brand risk trouble at Nike: “Head of Diversity” abruptly leaves during review of corporate culture.

“An official at Nike Inc. in charge of overseeing diversity and inclusion efforts has left the sportswear giant, bringing fresh upheaval to a company already grappling with misconduct among its executives…the company has said it’s reviewing how it deals with complaints and is designing new management training. It will also increase funding for internal diversity networks and expand anti-bias education…”

Nike's Head of Diversity Leaves.  Bloomberg News. April 16, 2018


Media-Centric “Brand Safety” is Catching On at Ad Agencies; the “brand safety officer” is the new, most important role…

“Clients are demanding their ads not show up in seedy places, so agencies are increasingly looking to hire chief brand-safety officers to act as point people for the fight against bad ad placements…”

Brand Safety Officer - The New Most Important Role.  Digiday. April 11, 2018


 Facebook is not as “Socially Responsible” as many investors believed.  

“A company that enabled the manipulation of data from up to 87 million people couldn't possibly be considered responsible, could it?  That's what many who planted their money with ethical investments holding the tech company Facebook might have thought as its CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress … on privacy and the Cambridge Analytica scandal.…”

SRI Funds Get a Black Eye with Facebook.  CNBC. April 13, 2018


Starbucks will close 8000 company stores for an afternoon of racial bias training.

Starbucks is closing thousands of stores across the U.S. on the afternoon of May 29 to conduct "racial-bias education geared toward preventing discrimination in our stores," the company said in a statement.  The coffee shop chain has been criticized and protested against after two black men were arrested last week at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, where they were quietly waiting to meet someone. …”

Starbucks Closing 8,000 Stores for Racial Bias Education. NPR. April 17, 2018

Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected weekly updates

Morgan Stanley fires wealth adviser after reports of physical abuse, assault and arrests dating back over a decade.

“The New York Times had reported that four women obtained restraining orders against him over a period of 15 years and he had been arrested in connection with some of the cases. The bank was aware of the allegations against Greenberg for years and kept him on staff, the newspaper said. The Times reported the firing earlier Tuesday…”

Morgan Stanley fires wealth adviser after abuse allegations.  Bloomberg News. April 3, 2018


The Guggenheim Museum in New York presents public program “Culture and its Discontents,” partly in response to pulling two exhibits after an aggressive social media campaign targeted the museum’s employees.

“In response to vociferous cultural debates that have engulfed the Guggenheim Museum and other U.S. museums with in-person and online protests during the past year, the Guggenheim presents two days of public programming to examine the causes and effects of this growing phenomenon.  Taking place on April 6 and 7, a series of discussions titled “Culture and Its Discontents” will bring together prominent scholars and thought leaders to discuss the widening ideological divides in the United States, the impact of the digital sphere on public protest, and the role of museums as open spaces for experimentation and the exchange of ideas. …”

 The Guggenheim - Culture and its Discontents.  April 6-7, 2018 two-day program release.


You Tube violating children’s privacy laws sparks 20 advocacy groups to action.

“More than 20 consumer advocacy groups have joined forces against YouTube. The Google-owned platform is, according to those groups, violating children’s privacy law by collecting data from users younger than 13. The coalition filed a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission on Monday…”

You Tube violating children's privacy.  New York Magazine. April 9, 2018.


Pay Inequity: CEO-to-median compensation ratios are being revealed for the first time, as publicly traded firms conform to Dodd-Frank financial regulations.

“…Does anyone really think comparing the paychecks of part-time teenagers in their first jobs to compensation of CEOs yields any useful insight about the management effectiveness or investment quality of retail companies? Or that it will generate effective policy ideas on how to put more Americans on a path to success?”  Shay likely meant for these questions to be rhetorical. But there’s an answer here — and it’s not good for the CEOs he’s trying to protect. Learning more about these companies, now easier than ever with the Bloomberg tracker, means we can more fully understand the inequality beast and generate those “effective policy ideas” Shay seems to find so elusive…”

 Institute for Policy Studies: How to Track CEO to Worker Pay Ratios. April 5, 2018.

Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected weekly updates

Marketers and C-Suite managers are increasingly acknowledging a “risk management” role attending to the general issue of marketing risk exposure is emerging.    

“Brand Safety has been the hot topic on marketers' lips over the last 18 months amid reoccurring mishaps from platforms like Google and Facebook around targeting, viewability and ad misplacement. Not so long ago, brands like Airbnb and Tesco touted the position of the chief media officer as one that could help alleviate some of the industry’s ills, but now it appears that weight of expectation may shift to a newly-coined role, the brand safety officer. …”

Will Brand Safety Officer dethrone Chief Media Officer? Harro, March 12, 2018


Investors are increasingly demanding that corporations advance socio-economic positions.   

 “…Today, institutional investors and other stakeholders are asking companies to take public stances on a wide array of topics, some of which may be wholly unrelated to the targeted company’s corporate purpose. Investment funds themselves are feeling this pressure, as they are being asked by their own investors to become activists on social issues, and the rapid pace of recent external events—combined with the impact of social media—can demand hasty statements or actions…”

 Corporations and the Culture Wars: Harvard Law Forum, March 23, 2018


Big Finance taking sides in the gun debate: Citibank restricts firearms sales by retail banking clients.

 “…Lawrence G. Keane, general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the firearms industry, said in a statement, “These policies do nothing to add to public safety and, in fact, may put vulnerable Americans at greater risk to be victims of crime.” He called Citi’s action “virtue signaling…”

Citibank restricts retail firearms sales. Reuters, March 22, 2018


 Facebook Fiasco: Company reputation crashes over 20 points in latest research study.

 “…Elon Musk expressed his disappointment in the company by prominently deleting the Facebook pages for SpaceX and Tesla in response to the scandal. “Gives me the willies,” he tweeted.  Musk also tweeted a Saturday report in Ars Technica that, on earlier editions of Android, Facebook’s apps were able to gather data on calls and texts without explicitly asking for permission. “Shocker,” he added…”

 Facebook falls 20% in reputation poll. Fast Company, March 27, 2018

Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected weekly updates

Snapchat stock down 4% after Rihanna criticizes the firm for running an insensitive ad and for making light of domestic violence.   

“Snapchat users noticed an ad that asked whether they would rather “slap Rihanna” or “punch Chris Brown.” On Thursday, the pop star took to Instagram, a direct competitor for Snapchat, to criticize the ad for making light of domestic violence. Stock prices for Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, sank by 4 percent…”

Rihanna protests Snapchat ad. The New York Times. March 15, 2018

Venture capital firms are now disclosing their sexual harassment policies – an industry first.   

 “A group of venture capital firms are publicizing their sexual harassment policies, some for the first time, as part of a new directory co-led by one of the women who publicly accused a VC of harassment.…”

 Venture firms now disclosing harassment policies. Recode. March 8, 2018

 Facebook stock crashes over 10% after data-mining fiasco is mismanaged and FTC intervenes.

 “The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is probing whether Facebook violated terms of a 2011 consent decree over its handing of user data that was transferred to Cambridge Analytica without their knowledge, according to a person familiar with the matter. The commission will be sending a letter to the company, according to second person with knowledge of the matter...”

FTC now probing Facebook over use of personal data. Bloomberg News. March 20, 2018

“Buycotts” are overtaking “boycotts” among consumer activists.

 “…New research…suggests the tactic of “buycotting” is gaining steam – and may overtake boycotts as the most prevalent way consumers vote with their dollars...”

 Buycotts versus boycotts. The Denver Post. March 1, 2018

Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected weekly updates

Brand Risk and Due Diligence: During her Academy Awards acceptance speech, Best Actress winner Frances McDormand encourages use of “inclusion riders” in acting contracts.   

“So what is an inclusion rider? …It’s the idea that A-list actors have the ability to stipulate in their contracts that diversity be reflected both onscreen and in “below the line” positions, where women, people of color, and members of L.G.B.T. communities are traditionally underrepresented…”

Frances McDormand has two words for you. The New York Times. 03/05/18

Delta Airlines and Enterprise Rental Cars run afoul of the Florida State legislature after severing ties with NRA in the wake of the Florida school shooting tragedy. 

 “Over the past 24 hours, Florida lawmakers, borrowing from counterparts in Georgia, have targeted an aviation fuel tax reduction benefiting Delta and proposed late night budget language to rebid a state rental car contract held by Enterprise. The Enterprise contract is not set to expire until September 2020…”

 Delta Airlines paying for severing ties with NRA. Politico. 03.03.18

 Trying to manage ahead of the brand risk curve, Bank of America appoints “Chief Brand Safety Officer.”

“I get a text from my chief financial officer every time there is news about a brand safety issue,” (CMO Lou) Paskalis said, according to ad industry news site The Drum. “I know why he is sending them to me … at some point he is going to say, ‘gee is marketing safe to invest in?’ and we don’t want that.…”

BOA appoints Chief Brand Safety Officer. The Guardian. 02.28.18

Qantas Airlines wades into controversy with new politically-correct employee speech policy.

“…Qantas Airline released the information on its corporate intranet as part of its "Spirit of Inclusion" month detailing a list of potentially offensive terms.  Staff were also allegedly advised to avoid words such as "mum" and "dad" and "husband" and "wife" as they could be seen to exclude same-sex couples and single parent families.…”

 Qantas Airlines ignites new speech controversy. The Evening Standard. 03.06.18

Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected news updates.

Kentucky Fried Chicken: Embarrassingly, KFC runs out of chicken after new supply chain logistics partner gets off to a very slow start.   

“As the (KFC chicken) shortage entered its fourth day Tuesday, some unhappy fried chicken-less customers have resorted to calling on their local police and parliament members to do something…”

"KFC Crisis" in UK prompts police calls. The Washington Post February 20 2018

Wells Fargo: More botched customer servicing by the banking behemoth prompts congressional demands for answers.

“…(The latest) snafu has prompted Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to fire off a letter to Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan, demanding an explanation, accusing Sloan of breaking his promises to customers and flatly accusing the bank of stealing its customers’ money.  Her letter demanded an answer from Sloan by the end of the month…”

 Wells Fargo grilled over botched refunds.  MPA Magazine February 15, 2018

Brand Risk in Education: Washington University – St. Louis fraternity member suspended after firearms are found in frat house.

“Two guns, one of them an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, were confiscated from a fraternity member at Washington University, the school's leader said Tuesday evening.  Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton also said that the student has been temporarily suspended and "removed from campus pending formal adjudication." The university's policy bars weapons from campus…”

Washington University student suspended and frat banned. St. Louis Post Dispatch February 21, 2018

Delta Airlines invites extreme brand risk as Georgia state legislature is poised to rescind tax breaks after the airline cancels NRA member deals in wake of Florida school shooting. 

“…Casey Cagle, who is running for governor as a Republican this year, tweeted on Monday that he would block any legislation that includes tax benefits for Delta until the airline renewed the (NRA) partnership…”

 Delta sees state tax break threatened.  Business Insider February 26 2018

Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected news updates.

Facebook stock dumped by actor Jim Carrey amid demands the social media network do more to stop the spread of “fake news.”

“I’m dumping my @facebook stock and deleting my page because @facebook profited from Russian interference in our elections and they're still not doing enough to stop it. I encourage all other investors who care about our future to do the same. #unfriendfacebook," wrote Carrey…

Jim Carey: Dump Facebook Stock.  Innvestopedia February 8 2018.

Brand Risk in Education: Cornell frat put on probation in latest example of Greek organizations behaving badly.  

Ryan Lombardi, Cornell’s vice president for student and campus life, called the game “abhorrent,” according to the Daily Sun, Cornell’s student newspaper.  “Behavior that degrades and dehumanizes women contributes to a climate and culture of tolerance for sexual violence,” he said.”

Cornell Frat's "Pig Roast" Contest.  The Washington Post February 7 2018

 Lady Doritos?  Pepsico suffers through another self-inflicted brand faux pas.

“This media hysteria began, as it often does, with an apparently off-the-cuff quote, in this case from an interview with Indra Nooyi, chief executive of PepsiCo, on a Jan. 31 episode of the “Freakonomics Radio” podcast.  Ms. Nooyi told the interviewer that women did not eat Doritos the same way men did.…”

Lady Doritos Introduced by Pepsico CEO Nooyi.  The New York Times February 6 2018

Tide Pods Enters the Regulatory Crosshairs.  The meme has catalyzed into a brand risk situation with potentially serious consequences…

“Reported poisonings connected to the viral “Tide pod challenge” have been rising — there have been 86 cases in the first three weeks of 2018, up from 53 cases in all of 2017…Lawmakers and consumer groups…urge manufacturers to step up protective measures for detergent pods.”

Lawmakers take on Tide pods with call for regulation.  Politico February 6 2018

Socio-economic marketing and brand risk - selected news updates.

Dodge Ram Trucks’ sparks social media backlash and broad criticism for using Martin Luther King, Jr. sermon in Super Bowl ad.

“The response put Ram in a position that advertisers dread — misfiring with a commercial in the Super Bowl, which sells 30 seconds of airtime for upward of $5 million and is watched by more than 100 million people...” 

Dodge Ram Trucks Super Bowl Ad Backlash, The New York Times, February 5, 2018


Newsweek, former news media leader, engulfed in “sourced traffic” media fraud, fires executive staffers.

Newsweek formerly had a powerful brand name in media.  From the article: “Last week, BuzzFeed News reported that the company (Newsweek) engaged in “fraudulent online traffic practices” to help secure an online ad buy from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  The publisher of Newsweek and the International Business Times bought fake audience traffic in order to fulfill a large government advertising campaign…”

Upheaval at Newsweek. USA Today. February 5, 2018


Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager and equity shareholder, demands socio-economic accountability from corporations, introducing a new brand risk dimension: investors will now require greatly improved socio-economic brand risk management. 

CEO and founder, Larry Fink, in his 2018 Letter to CEO’s, puts corporations on notice:  “…Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society…”

Blackrock's Larry Fink Letter to CEO's. A Sense of Purpose. January 2018