[Update: President Donald Trump ended both CEO advisory councils in a tweet. It doesn't change the thrust of the article below, that brands are adhering to their values.]
Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2017
Merck, Intel and Under Armour brand representatives exiting the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative got a Twitter-lashing from President Donald Trump, who called them “grandstanders” on Tuesday.
The following tweets appear on @realDonaldTrump, an account retweeted by @POTUS:
For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2017
We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
However, the first member to leave the advisory council, Kenneth Frazier of Merck & Co Inc., tweeted on Monday morning that he was acting in his brand and personal interests in order to take a stand against far-right extremism. Hours later, Intel’s Brian Krzanich and Under Armour’s Kevin Plank resigned from the board.
— Merck (@Merck) August 14, 2017
The three were reacting to Trump’s initial statement after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., turned deadly. “Trump had said ‘many sides’ were involved, drawing fire from across the political spectrum for not specifically denouncing the far right,” Reuters reported on Monday.
Merck, Intel and Under Armour’s leaders weren’t the first marketers to exit Trump’s advisory boards — with Tesla’s Elon Musk notably leaving in June to adhere to his brand’s climate change/environmental stand.
Don't know which way Paris will go, but I've done all I can to advise directly to POTUS, through others in WH & via councils, that we remain
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 31, 2017
Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2017
This from Musk, despite having earlier defended being a presidential advisor when Uber’s former CEO, Travis Kalanick, departed due to public outcry related Trump’s stand on immigration. (For more information on the Uber situation, this article details the #DeleteUber hashtag’s effect and this one his company ouster.)
In February, Musk reportedly tweeted:
“Advisory councils simply provide advice and attending does not mean that I agree with actions by the Administration.”
The tweet no longer appears on Musk’s feed.
Also, the board looks different from the one the White House announced in January.
As for guarding brand names against affiliation with hate speech and actions, presidential boards aren’t the only entities to see marketers leave. In April, marketers majorly cut back ad spending on YouTube, with JPMorgan Chase notably instituting human checks on every ad placement to ensure they didn’t continue to show up on extremist sites. In May, YouTube had rectified the problem and saw ad dollars return.
Similarly, Kellogg’s stopped advertising on Breitbart.com in 2016 amid hate speech concerns, but saw a vehement backlash. Site representatives started the #DumpKelloggs hashtag and site followers embraced it, denouncing the cereal brand.
Brands do take a chance with their reputations by taking a political stand that they believe adheres to their values, because it can result in consumer boycotts. The Merck CEO’s withdrawal from the presidential council already earned Trump’s ire — twice. Once with the grandstanding tweet and earlier with this one:
Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council,he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2017
That's a brand sentiment which some on Twitter embraced:
@Merck the Merciless lower your prices so that your feigned indignation at least has a positive outcome !
— Andrew Managh (@AndrewManagh) August 15, 2017
However, on Merck.com directly below Frazier’s photo, the brand makes clear it stands with its leader:
Our chairman and CEO, Ken Frazier, is accountable to the Merck Board of Directors.
And to the left of Frazier’s photo:
Good corporate governance benefits both our customers and our shareholders and is essential to our long-term business success.
For this reason, we devote considerable time and resources to making sure that:
• our policies reflect our values and business goals;
• we have an effective corporate governance structure; and
• we are operating in a way that is open, honest and transparent.
What do you think, marketers?
Please respond in the comments section below.
Related story: Kellogg’s Accused of Being Anti-Family