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…but companies show little guts to take part

Updated: Aug 7

Premier League, the worlds biggest football league, take stance for Black lives matter. But will superbrands like Heineken try to bridge growing divides again? Will Gillette, who recently took a severe beating when addressing equality, make come back? Corporate courage is unusual and volatile, but there are signs suggesting that "woke capitalism" may wake up again.

By Mats Paulsen

"We want our message to be a positive one that recognises football has the power to bring people together", Premier League writes when players recently changed their names for Black lives matter.

Corporate action to bridge divides come and go. A few years ago, Heineken was praised as they showed that different people are pretty similar in a documentary style ad:









The digital travel platform Momondo also had success with "Let's open your world" with the help of DNA-testing.


"There would be no such thing as extremism in the world if people knew their heritage":










Danish TV2 did ads with similar a message in "All that we share":










These companies have stopped trying to bridge divides. A fair explanation is missed sales targets and lost brand strength. Heineken’s target group, within the millennial age group, felt that inclusion and diversity was one more “pressure” for them to carry on their shoulders.


Instead Heineken did ads like, “Perfect man”, and “Father&Son”. Both about success for individuals in a privileged white middle class. Heineken turned 180 from global responsibility to egoism.


The changed marketing direction coincides with the wave of the refugees that came to Europe starting in 2015. As immigration grew, positive attitudes towards refugees, immigrants, and diversity fell. Nationalist currents were followed by growing traditionalism, conservatism, and anti-feminism. Gillette got to feel a new rage in 2018.

The razor brand did “We believe: The best a man can be” about changing the traditional role and expectations of men:







This ad was watched more than 2 million times on YouTube in 48 hours. Comments were largely negative, with viewers saying they will never buy Gillette products again or that the ad was "feminist propaganda".


Harsh opposition like this mean commercial risks for advertisers. A reasonable middle has turned into unreasonable “for” or “against”. Research suggests that people find it increasingly difficult to accept the opinions of others.


However, despite angry opposition, some companies do take stand. For example, some companies in the US want better gun control. They show signs of a wobbly and anxious movement called “woke capitalism”. It means that corporations should stand up for social and racial justice. Few have guts to do it and those who do take commercial risks.

Now some corporations are reacting to the overuse of violence by the American police. Nike, Twitter and Citigroup have aligned themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement, read here.


Until more company courage returns, the most classic commercial of all time will have to do: “I´d like to buy the world a coke. It´s the real thing.”


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