Brands have become our new moral arbiters
It’s not often you hear an apology from a big corporation that sounds like it really means it, but Jenny Craig’s statement last night that it “badly misjudged public perception of Kyle Sandilands” sounds genuine enough - perhaps because it’s so bloody obvious.
Hmmm, brand heavily skewed towards women with body issues, linked to the “fat slag” king, what could possibly go wrong?
The language marketing departments use when one of the stars they throw millions of dollars at to flog their products step out of line, is often at best hilarious, at worst mealy-mouthed.
When the latest Sandilands story first blew up, Holden put out a statement saying the program was: “no longer in line with Holden’s core values and as a result we have taken action to withdraw our sponsorship - effective immediately.”
By that statement, when the Kyle and Jackie O Show strapped a 14-year-old girl to a lie detector and grilled her about her sex life, that was in line with Holden’s core values.
Who knew a car company was expected to have “core values” that related to anything other than safety-standards, fuel efficiency and providing top-notch after-sales service? Does Holden have a policy document relating to refugees, as well as its standard operating proceedure on feminism and the sexualisation of girls?
What the statement really meant was - as long as Sandilands sells cars for us he can do and say what the hell he likes, as soon as the public heat gets too much - we’re outta here.
The same can be said for Jenny Craig. Someone in the company made the judgment call that advertising numbers were more important than values. The company was comfortable with the decision until a conflagration of outrage showed the potential to damage its brand.
At least they admitted it in their statement, and didn’t pretend their decision was about the betterment of women’s self-esteem and place in society or somesuch rubbish.
There’s an expectation that corporations who are trying to sell us stuff have a responsibility for more than just increasing their sales - that they must not just conform to society’s values, but somehow lead them or define them.
When they rename Vegemite iSnack 2.0 there’s not just mocking, there’s outrage! As if it’s Kraft’s responsibility to preserve our Australian identity, not just to shift bucketloads of a delicious breakfast condiment.
When the “face” of a brand tweets a stupid homophobic remark, poos on a teammate or at the serious end of the spectrum, hits his girlfriend - there’s an expectation now the company will do more than say “woops, there goes a few thousand sales - no more cash for you”.
We want them to join in the collective condemnation, to reinforce societies values for us.
Fleeing sponsors have so far cost Austereo a reported $8 million. It’s probably also cost the raft of brands who have bailed a lot of ears tuned into their sales pitch.
That’s what it’s really about. Weighing up the cost of cutting off a section of your audience, with the benefit of protecting your brand from a buffetting on “values”.
It’s certainly not an exact mathematical equation.
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