THE cynical attack on GB News by the far-Left agitators of Stop Funding Hate may end up being a good thing.
It means a long-overdue spotlight is being shone on the woke proclivities of many large corporations – whose actions you can see scathingly dissected by Andrew Neil on the new channel’s Media Watch feature here.
The hypocritical attempt by SFH to manoeuvre an advertising boycott of GBN backfired spectacularly, bringing a public relations disaster for big names such as IKEA and Vodafone, who jumped unthinkingly on to the bandwagon.
They were vainly trying to signal their virtue and live up to their corporate mission statements, believing they would ride the crest of a wave of public indignation against GBN.
But instead of being impressed by their shining ethical superiority, customers began boycotting the boycotters’ products … a marketing department’s nightmare.
The truth is that in their eagerness to stay on trend with the latest wokery, many of these big corporations have forgotten what they are in business for.
Grolsch, for example, responded to the boycott call by stating that it prides itself ‘on core values of inclusion and openness to all’. This is an outfit that sells beer.
It’s not the first time big business has had ideas above its product. Take Gillette, purveyors of shaving stuff, whose tagline ‘the best a man can get’ won it a 70 per cent market share.
As competitors successfully piled into the market with cheaper alternatives, the company reckoned that millennials gave more credit to brands using corporate social responsibility appeals.
So the message was shifted to ‘We believe in the best in men’, with adverts featuring scenes of ugly and negative behaviour, suggesting it was time for men to start taking responsibility. The consumer response was overwhelmingly negative, and Gillette’s market share slumped.
More recently, Nivea ran a Facebook deodorant ad which declared ‘White is Purity’. Intended for its skincare users in the Middle East, it depicted the back of a woman’s head with long wavy dark hair that tumbled over an all-white outfit. It was immediately condemned as racist, some commentators even referencing the Holocaust.
The company apologised, saying the image ‘was inappropriate and not reflective of the values of our company … diversity and inclusivity are crucial values of Nivea’.
Perhaps the aftershocks of this blunder lingered on when Nivea displayed its diversity and inclusivity by withdrawing its adverts from GB News.
The Open University, which is publicly funded, also ditched its advertising, stating that it had not planned or purchased any advertising there. It is currently ‘investigating what had happened’.
Then we come to Vodafone, which seemed to have been caught with its corporate pants down.
SFH supporters were celebrating when the official account of the telecommunications giant tweeted that its GBN advertising had been placed without permission.
Then the Guido Fawkes political website revealed that the announcement had been made by someone lower down the food chain and the company had ‘no intention of boycotting’. Ah, the dangers of social media.
So who’s looking after the outsourcing to advertising agencies? Perhaps more importantly, who’s making sure mission statements make sense?
There are companies out there eager to tell CEOs just how to manage their image and functioning via the corporate mission statement.
Yet, in spite of all this expertise on hand, some of the world’s best-known brands come out with the most awful gobbledegook – wordy, vague, or just inane. The statement of cosmetics firm Avon runs to 249 words, covering everything from increasing shareholder value to fighting breast cancer.
Then there’s this corker from Avery Dennison – ‘To help make every brand more inspiring and the world more intelligent’. What are they flogging? Stick-on labels.
This is the problem with the Americanisation of corporate behaviour, and the GB News fiasco demonstrates what a minefield it has become in the age of wokery.
As marketing expert Professor Charles Taylor says: ‘Regardless of how much some without marketing backgrounds would like to believe that companies taking political stances is okay, alienating a substantial proportion of the target audience is never a good thing.
‘Regardless of what political party or group may be alienated, it is simply bad marketing practice to offend significant numbers of your own customers.’
Put simply, consumers do not want to be told how to be socially responsible by a profit-motivated company.
Meanwhile, Andrew Neil remains unruffled by all the boycott hoo-hah. ‘It’s all good publicity,’ he says. ‘For everybody that wants to boycott, there are about ten people who are going to watch … it only becomes a problem if you don’t stand up to them, and I can assure you I will.’
Neil takes no prisoners, and he sums up the situation succinctly and incisively in his Media Watch counterblast against the SFH attack dogs. CEOs and mission statement creators would do well to take note.