The other day we were onboarding a new client. A 700 million dollar company that brought us on to help them launch a new brand. I was reviewing their brand identity, getting excited by descriptions of a purpose-driven archetype that wouldn’t be afraid to stand up for what they believe in. So I asked, “If your brand was two years old in June 2020, how would you be showing up right now on the topic of racial justice?” They hadn’t thought about it like that.
Corporate responsibility used to be a buzzword. For the past 10 years that’s been changing. We owe a lot to courageous corporate leaders who’ve led the charge in transforming the concepts of purpose-driven and CSR from fluff to measurable components of business performance. Brands like Patagonia made a decision a long time ago that they didn’t give a shit about losing revenue from customers who didn’t align with their common sense values of protecting Planet Earth. Ben & Jerry’s, who may be the most outspoken of them all, has taken on everything they believe in, from the climate crisis to racial injustice and LGBTQ rights.
In 2020, there’s little separation between your brand strategy, corporate responsibility claims, and your social media content. Today, saying “we stay away from politics” doesn’t work because racial justice and a habitable planet aren’t political. It’s no longer acceptable to call yourself a purpose-driven brand if you’re not ready to show up and live the values that you’re claiming.
This brings us to Facebook. Instrumental in the corruption of the 2016 election, we’ve all been expecting that they’d stop facilitating the spread of hateful, violent, dangerous misinformation that’s threatening the end of our democracy. Yet just a couple of weeks ago, we got a disgusting slap in the face when Trump’s advertising campaign employed a Nazi symbol alongside a false narrative. Facebook was an accomplice here. They flag and reject harmless ads that adhere to their policies all of the time and we’re constantly appealing on behalf of our clients. I’ve seen hemp and oat-based gelato deemed more dangerous in Facebook’s judgement, than this.
In an effort to put the pressure on Facebook to be so much better than it is and no better than it should expect itself to be, many brands have stopped advertising on the platform during the month of July in a coordinated effort called #StopHateforProfit, a campaign driven by ADL, NAACP, Color of Change and more like-minded organizations. The hope is that by pulling millions of dollars of ad spend, Zuckerberg will listen to specific demands for making Facebook a safer space, such as finding and removing public and private groups focused on white supremacy, militia, antisemitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denialism, vaccine misinformation, and climate denialism.
We find ourselves in a weak position at KW Content. Our participation in this campaign would be 100% in alignment with our values. As a small business in big COVID-recovery mode, one of our greatest weaknesses and threats is that right now, 95% of our revenue comes through Facebook and Instagram. Turning off our advertising for the month of July would take our business down.
We have some ideas of how to contribute, though, and since we work with many small and medium size organizations that are in similar positions, we thought we’d share our internal point of view and invite you to participate with us.
- Adopt a progress over perfection mentality. Being unable to pull dollars from a company that is operating in contradiction with your belief system is a problem, but it’s surmountable. You have the opportunity to take certain actions during the month of July that will get you closer to a place where you can go in a different direction, for good, if Facebook doesn’t do what’s right.
- Use your platform to raise awareness of the campaign and specifically, the demands that the participants are asking for.
- Support companies that are pulling ad dollars from Facebook with your dollars during the month of July (full list here).
- Start creating a traffic diversification plan so that you can leave Facebook by the end of the year if they don’t do what’s right. Let’s keep our eyes on this and be prepared for what comes next. If you’d like to subscribe to future communications from KW Content on how to diversify your website traffic drop your email here. We won’t be in touch for any other reason than to keep this convo going.
- Make a statement to followers and customers about your moral dilemma. Make sure that your organized channels have a statement that makes it clear you align with the movement and are activating a longer term plan to address the shortcomings of your business.
It’s not just about July. One reason the campaign is only a month long is because even big businesses rely on this platform to operate. Zuckerberg knows this. There’s one way Facebook will accommodate these demands, and it’s if we can make the money hurt enough that he’s hearing from his shareholders.
At KW Content, we’ve spent a lot of time loving Facebook and Instagram. We believe strongly in the founding principle of these platforms to connect and cultivate community. But if this corporate leader is unable to operate with the best interest of our people and planet in mind, it’s too dangerous to hold this power.
We’re asking ourselves: how long will it take for us to replace our Facebook traffic? If they don’t meet our demands, July is our queue to prepare our brand to pull advertising dollars from Facebook for good.