In the last month we’ve heard about big brands like Pepsi, United Airlines and Fox News and their epic failures to connect to their stakeholders, serve their customers and create a safe culture for employees to thrive.
In case you missed it, Pepsi caught flack for a commercial, featuring Kendall Jenner, that tried to capitalize on the protest movement of this new political climate we are living in, in a very manipulative way. Not only did the ad NOT tug at our heartstrings and have people rushing out to buy a Pepsi, it missed the mark so badly that there was immediate consumer backlash and the ad was pulled rather quickly.
United Airlines had its worst week ever when, in a bad customer service move, security was called to remove a customer who refused to give up his seat when the flight was overbooked and they needed to make room for a flight crew. The scene of the man being brutally dragged off the plane and humiliated in the process was filmed by other passengers and played over and over again in the news media, in what must have been a very slow news week. To make matters worse, the CEO of United Airlines issued an initial statement that left an impression that he was blaming the victim for the situation and not taking any responsibility for the actions of the United Airlines staff or the authorities who removed the man.
And in other news, Fox News fired Bill O’Reilly over longstanding sexual harassment allegations and settlements of over $13 million dollars to women who were either current or former employees of Fox News. Make no mistake, this wasn’t conscious capitalism at work; this was a financial move, as it wasn’t until advertisers started pulling ad revenue from the O’Reilly Factor, fearing backlash from their consumers. Fox realized that O’Reilly was becoming a liability, and they took action.
That’s enough to make even the most optimistic person feel disheartened about the state of business and the future of our society.
But for every Fox News, United and Pepsi we have seen wonderful responses from other companies working hard at transformation.
In April, Dove released a case study of how they hacked Shutterstock’s search results to portray women that reflect society with their IMAGE_HACK campaign. The New York Police Department is working alongside the New York Housing Authority to improve customer relations. The New York Time’s article, Customer Service in Blue, highlights, “As New York City’s police department, the largest in the country, undergoes a transformation in how it serves and relates to the communities where faith in law enforcement has eroded, it is a good moment to ask just how happy the customers are.” And the American Association of Universities released their Campus Activities Report: Combating Sexual Assault and Misconduct. They, along with 60 institutions are working to make American campuses safer for every student. The report offer examples of campus activity now underway to better inform universities about sexual assault and sexual misconduct on campus, and to affect change.
It’s a shame initiatives like these aren’t viral pieces consumed en masse and applauded. But if we look for it, remain aware of it, we can find inspiration in private enterprise, government and within our strongest institutions.