Charlottesville: Why Decisive Brand Moves Matter


(San Francisco) - The horror of Charlottesville continues to wash over us as a nation, becoming a historic and deadly event many Americans predicted as eventual during the Trump administration. From the White House,  we've had the president's everyone is to blame statement, followed by his TelePrompTer bare minimum condemnation (thoroughly diminished by an earlier power punch from Germany's Angela Merkel, which named Nazis as Nazis); a Vice-President's self-interested disavowal; a speed-talking Jeff Sessions getting grilled on CBS This Morning; a smattering of searing condemnations from some Republican members of Congress. Most of this administration's leadership is abjectly failing the American people and the Constitutional American values they swore to uphold. In addition to widespread condemnation from millions of American citizens, brands and brand leaders are reacting decisively and powerfully. 

GoDaddy...and Google, too

When The Daily Stormer, an American neo-Nazi and white supremacist news and commentary website, began disparaging protestor Heather Heyer after her death (I will say murder), cited Daily Stormer for a terms of service violation, giving it 24 hours to remove its domain from GoDaddy hosting.


Daily Stormer moved on to Google domains, which Google quickly cancelled as another TOS violation. 

Take Away: Although GoDaddy gave Daily Stormer the boot after intense public pressure, it still quickly grasped the potential for brand-killing optics, pulling the plug in order to protect its globally recognized brand identity, value, and proposition. 

Tiki Brand Products

On Friday night, when we first started seeing angry white men protesting on Charlottesville's University of Virginia campus, an image of these guys with tiki torches went viral across Twitter. In truth, my first thought was "oh my God, they're using citronella tiki torches." But I wasn't the only one, with thousands of tweeps deriding the obvious. However, I did tweet that Pier One should issue a statement, as it was the first brand that came to mind. I later found out that Tiki Brand Products did this beautifully, as below. 


Take Away: I initially thought 'Pier One' - and there may be more than one maker of tiki torches in the world - but through their statement, I now know that 1) Tiki Brand Products exists and 2) that their "products are designed to enhance backyard gatherings and to help family and friends connect with each other at home in their yard." Could we be any more specific? Tiki Brand Products tells a powerful and irrefutable brand story, allowing zero room for white supremacists who hijack their product in order to instill fear.  

Merck Pharmaceuticals 

This morning's big brand surprise was two-fold. First, Merck CEO Kenneth C. Frazier decided to vote his conscience regarding this weekend's events, i.e. how his participation in the President's American Manufacturing Council would reflect not only upon on his leadership, but the core values - and people - who are Merck's foundation. His resignation statement: 


Trump responded forcefully via Twitter.


Take Away: In his statement, Frazier clearly aligns our nation's "diversity and the contributions made by men and women of different faiths, races, sexual orientations, and political beliefs" with the diversity and contributions of Merck employees. He deftly adds that as Merck's CEO, he must make a stand against the intolerance and extremism demonstrated in Charlottesville this weekend, and, in effect, the administration's failure to respond appropriately. I'm absolutely in love with this statement as Frazier demonstrates his full commitment to being Chief Executive Brand Shepherd. Bravo.

BREAKING! Under Armour's CEO Kevin Plank has also resigned from President Trump's American Manufacturing Council tonight, citing his brand's commitment to "innovation and sports, not politics," as well as "the power of sport" to "promote unity, diversity and inclusion." Plank's full-throated support of Trump earlier this year resulted in fall out for Under Armour. Citing a strict focus on core brand values and activities, and building upon a FEB 2017 open letter in the Baltimore Sun, Plank cauterizes further brand damage while also seeing the rise of a potential boycott from Trump voters. Full Business Insiderstory and analysis here

This is a developing story. (Originally updated: 5:30 PM PDT 14AUG 2017. Links and commentary: 9:20AM PDT 15AUG 2017).



1) Per Axios at approximately 8PM last night: "Intel said Monday that CEO Brian Krzanich was leaving President Trump's American Manufacturing Council, the latest executive to distance himself from the president following the weekend's events in Virginia." Krzanich did so via a blog post, found here, indicating that he "resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing." 

2) Today, Scott Paul of Alliance for American Manufacturing became the 4th member to resign from President Trump's manufacturing jobs council. He did so via tweet at 8:37 AM PDT.  

This is a developing story. (9:25 AM PDT 15AUG 2017)

On August 16, 2017, Trump disbanded his business councils while CEOs simultaneously fled, the majority of whom issued statements indicating their respective, independent withdrawal.  Full story via The Guardian.