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Hacking Culture: Social Responsibility or Business?

On June 25th, the Supreme Court declared gay marriage legal; a controversial but welcoming decision for most of the American public. As the verdict came out, every business, even the ones with no history supporting gay equality, jumped on the bandwagon. They rainbow-colored their logo, products, and websites to celebrate the moment. While I am thrilled with the broad support of marriage equality, I wonder how much this is real versus opportunistic? And does it matter?
Today's people measure brands not by what they say, but by what they do. People trust brands that are authentic, not the ones that want to capitalize on the moment. The new generation, millennials, value authenticity as more important than content. 43% of millennials rank authenticity over content when consuming news. Furthermore, millennials believe that advertising is all spin and not authentic. Only 1% of millennials said that a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more. Therefore, using corporate social responsibility as a promotional tool does not work.
To gain people's trust, brands need to put their money where their mouth is. They need to make a sacrifice. For instance, CVS Caremark took a substantial financial hit when they decided to stop selling cigarettes in its drugstores. They could not claim to be a healthcare company while they sell products that kill people. Tesco, a supermarket in the UK, removed candies at the checkout counters in order to help customers to make healthier choices. Guinness pulled out of the NYC St. Patrick Day Parade over LGBT exclusion. In 2012, Google launched a campaign, supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights around the world. 
Therefore, if the social cause is not part of the brand core values, it should not be promoted. We are living in a culture of the moment. Everyone is trying to capitalize on what’s trending, regardless if it aligns with the core principles, to get attention. The problem is that people are skeptical about brands and advertising. So, brands are going to be measured not by what they say but by what they do.


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