More brands are coming forward and distancing themselves from President Trump.
The president’s manufacturing council of business leaders lost three of its members Monday, and a fourth on Tuesday, amid backlash from his failure to strongly condemn the deadly white-supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend.
The president offered a stronger condemnation on Monday, but it was too little too late.
“For the vast majority of Americans there is a fine boundary between backlash from political correctness and overt hatred,” said Paul Marcum, president at integrated marketing agency Truffle Pig. “Charlottesville — and the president’s response to it — missed that distinction and ended up on the wrong side of that boundary.”
In other words, had the executives not walked out and made their stances clear, they would have invariably ended up implying their support of white supremacy in the eyes of the majority, said Marcum. The four executives staging a walkout was them being unwilling to give extreme positions cover, he said.
This is in stark contrast to positions that many of them held until very recently.
For months, business leaders have rationalized joining Trump’s business councils by saying that they were trying help the president make better decisions about American business, even ignoring backlash.
Under Armour’s Plank, for example, was all praise for Trump in an interview with CNBC’s “Fast Money Halftime Report” back in February, despite the brand being literally threatened with “mass burnings” of the company’s garments across America.
“He wants to build things. He wants to make bold decisions and be really decisive,” Plank had said. “I’m a big fan of people that operate in the world of ‘publish and iterate’ versus ‘think, think, think, think, think,’ so there’s a lot that I respect there.”
But now, brands seem to be realising that their advice is largely inconsequential. And that walking out in such a situation is not only the right thing to do, but also good business.
The companies in question, according to data crunched by social analytics company Brandwatch, are actually getting a boost in brand perception after their walkouts.
Since August 13, Merck has been mentioned more than 344,000 times online, because of departure of its CEO from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council. Intel and Under Armour have too been mentioned over 116,000 times and 130,000 times respectively, within the same time period.
Further, the sentiment around the brands is largely positive, with 88.6% of Intel’s and 89.4% of Under Armour’s conversation being positive.
The only brand with a negative sentiment attached to it is Merck (with 62.9% of its mentions being negative). This is being driven by Trump’s criticism on Twitter of Kenneth Frazier and how Merck provides “ripoff drugs.” The only reason it is negative is because people are criticising Trump for singling out Merck and Frazier and not the other CEOs, and the algorithm can’t decipher that context.
On the other hand, president Trump’s brand seems to have taken a hit. According to Brandwatch, the most used hashtag in the combined conversations around all three companies is #ImpeachTrump. The hashtag has garnered over 33 million impressions.
Still, the brands seem to realise that it is ultimately a fragmented and polarising issue. So even while leaving, it appears that Intel and Under Armour were trying to avoid backlash as much as possible.
“It certainly appears to be a strategic manoeuvre from Plank and Krzanich to announce their departure later in the evening when people are looking to relax and stray away from news updates,” said Brandwatch’s PR data manager, Kellan Terry. “I’d guess that they hoped their departures wouldn’t garner as much attention later at night, and it’s commonly witnessed on social media that backlash is greatest for the first deviation away from the expected.”
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