Donald J. Trump has been in office for less than two weeks and the level of anxiety it has brought upon our society is unlike anything I’ve witnessed. While most Americans hoped the president would unite the nation and lead the healing process after a highly divisive and contentious election, it is fair to say that he has not.
One day after president Trump’s inauguration, we witnessed the single largest protest in US history. The Women’s March, which drew an estimated 2.9M protesters in cities large and small across the country, set the tone for what will surely be a new era of women’s political activism.
After kicking off his candidacy with disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants, the president has only intensified his rhetoric. Last Wednesday, he began to reshape immigration enforcement policies by signing two executive orders directing the construction of a wall on the US/Mexico border, increasing border patrol services and boosting the number of immigration enforcement officers responsible for deportations. These actions have caused a serious strain on our relationship with Mexico and have spurred anxiety, dismay and resolve among many in the Latino community.
President Trump’s recent “Muslim Ban,” which put a 120-day halt on the entry of any refugees, a 90-day halt for all citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, and an indefinite halt on all Syrian refugees caused yet another firestorm of protests. The response from immigrant rights activists and leading Silicon Valley CEO’s was swift. Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a letter to employees, saying his company “would not exist without immigration,” a clear reference to co-founder Steve Jobs’ Syrian ancestry. Google CEO, Sundar Pichai created a $4 million immigrant crisis fund to support immigration causes and in an internal memo he added, “It’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues.” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, offered free housing to refugees and anyone else recently barred from entry to the US. Lyft, the ride-sharing company announced that it will donate $1 million to the ACLU over the next four years. Facebook, Netflix, Twitter, Microsoft, Amazon, Tesla, Intel, Dropbox, Github, Rakuten, Expedia, Etsy, Godaddy and Reddit have also joined them in speaking out against this potentially unconstitutional executive order.
As a result of these actions, we have a growing number of multicultural consumers experiencing an increasing sense of unease. While this complicated cultural crossroad poses a real challenge for our society and the new administration, I believe it presents a rather unique opportunity for corporate America. For some, the immediate reaction will be to withdraw to the sideline and avoid taking a position for or against any of these issues in order to protect their brands from possible consumer backlash. I’m here to suggest that staying on the sideline, however safe it may appear at the moment, will come at a significant long-term cost.
Today’s multicultural audiences are far too important to ignore. In fact, the nation’s foreign-born population is projected to reach 78 million by 2060, which would account for 18.8% of our nation’s population. According to a recent Nielsen report, African-American growth will accelerate to 18% of the population by 2020. Additionally, Asian-Americans will be responsible for 15% of total growth by 2020. These consumer groups are savvy, socially conscious and highly interconnected. They deserve to know that the brands they support are both appreciative of their business and respectful of their relationship.
Companies like the ones I’ve mentioned above have been vocal in their support of immigrant communities. Others like Anheuser-Busch and Jarritos are letting their masterful creative do the talking. Jarritos, a fruit infused Mexican soft drink with a 60 year history, and their agency WALO Creative, joined forces with director Diego Luna to produce “The Journey,” a powerful two-minute masterpiece honoring the universal pursuit of the American Dream.
In the case of Anheuser-Busch, the beer giant’s 2017 Super Bowl ad spot, titled “Born the Hard Way,” is a departure from recent creative. Released this week, in the midst of the immigration debate, this creative celebrates the drive and personal struggle of the company’s immigrant founder, Adolph Busch. In the spot, Busch faces considerable hardship, from a dangerous journey to the US to xenophobic antagonism upon arrival.
Budweiser could have easily taken the sideline route by airing another cute puppy or Clydesdale ad and no one would have complained. While Budweiser vice president, marketing Ricardo Marques claims the brand is not making a political statement, it will not go unnoticed, that the brewer chose to debut this cinematic gem on television’s grandest stage during the height of President Trump’s contentious immigration ban debate.
As the stewards of global brands, I urge you to meet today’s challenge by standing shoulder to shoulder with your multicultural consumers. The relationships you have courted and invested heavily in over the years will reap greater rewards by doing so. When future generations look back on this pivotal moment in history, they will note where you stood on the most important issues of the day. Will your brand be among those that stood courageously by them in solidarity, or will your brand be among the many that grew silent and turned their back when their support was needed most?