On brands ‘taking a knee’ in divisive times

Guest Column: Sandeep Kalsi, CEO of Janga Media – SAAS Marketing Platforms, writes why brands should take a community-first approach and lead with values & purpose

e4m by Sandeep Kalsi
Updated: Jun 18, 2020 1:09 PM  | 3 min read
Sandeep Kalsi

Where to play and how to play, are the questions that many global brands have positively squared up to in a short space of 100 days.  The George Floyd movement, Coronavirus and Donald Trump have given brands a new sense of purpose and redefined societal responsibility in a completely new way.  Brands have moved from being passive to active participants on contentious and divisive issues to ‘take a knee’.

On the anti-racism and reform of criminal justice campaigns, mass support has been unprecedented.  From CEOs through to major global sports leagues, all have been vocal on media, company websites, via official social media accounts or through messages to employees.  Major Brands like Netflix remarked: “To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter”; and “the inequitable and brutal treatment of Black people in our country must stop,” echoed Amazon.  On another stage, the English Premier League is encouraging players to freely ‘take a knee’, whilst the National Football League in the US has publicly apologised for its previous stance on ‘Colin Kaepernick’ and the national anthem. 

Nitin Mantri, CEO, Avian-WE and President of the PRCAI comments, “Brands have always been uniquely positioned to make a positive impact on the communities they work and live in. Because of the infodemic of misinformation, brands must now lead with authenticity, empathy and transparency, more than ever.  Even before the pandemic, there was a growing clamour among consumers for the display of humanity from brands.  A community-first approach is required and to lead with values and purpose.”

The common cause has added integrity and purpose to a Brand’s actions.  Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, exemplified this, realising his organisation’s role in the dissemination of accurate information, especially in a US election year – countering the claims of an over-zealous President with a warning ‘fact-checking’ label.  By doing so, almost prompting an employee revolution across the road at Facebook with Mr Zuckerberg neatly sitting on the fence.  Corporate inertia will no longer be tolerated.

Tanya Sweta, id8 Media Solutions, the CEO, adds: “For now at least, corporate values take on a new meaning and values-driven Brand marketing will win. Make no mistake, young consumers, especially are making choices based on ethics and a social conscience.  The dialogue has to be truthful and actions should speak louder than words.”

With both labour and capital reserves at their disposal, recent weeks have witnessed Corporate Indiaworkin tandem with Government agencies to provide much needed COVID-19 essential services.  IFFCO’s ‘Brake The Corona Chain’ aptly illustrated this, a nationwide initiative targeting more than six lakh farmers, cooperatives and transporters; providing masks; medicated soaps and sanitisers; gamcha; food, nutrition and drinking water.

“There’s now a greater introspection on CSR activity in the Boardroom.  Lockdown lessons have been learnt, and there is a new realisation of roles of Brands as unofficial NGOs to supplement community and social services.  At the heart of this is the need to maintain trust and good faith with all stakeholders,” added IFFCO’s Corporate Communications Chief, Harshendra Singh Verdan.

The last 100 days have seen a new level of Brand compassion and defined a new sense of purpose in a new remodelled economy and world.  So, Brands no longer have to consciously grapple with inculcating authenticity and CSR into their messaging frameworks to appease investors, the Boardroom, employees and customers. It all comes rather naturally from within.


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