The resistance brand: Is corporate appropriation of anti-Trump discourse changing the face of political CSR?

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“The Trump-resistance will be commercialized” (Hess, 2017). Paraphrasing political activist and artist Gil Scott-Heron’s famous title seems increasingly apt as one corporation after the other voices sympathy with social protesters and/or dismay at the politics of the White House incumbent. But how are we to understand corporate actors’ use of anti-Trump discourse? Can commercial interests serve revolutionary purposes? Or does the revolution become a means to other ends when appropriated by commercial organizations? That is, does adding corporate voices to the critical chorus enforce or weaken the revolutionary agenda/radical critique, and, ultimately, does the rise of the resistance brand challenge or re-inscribe social order? In this paper, we explore these issues as they relate to and play out in social media networks.
More particularly, we consider two interrelated issues: (i) how do corporations engage in anti- Trump discourse, and (ii) what are the public reactions to and social consequences of this engagement?

We address these issues analytically by first studying what could only be called a spectacular failure to tap into the commercial potential of resistance, namely Pepsi’s “Live for now”-ad, which in the Spring of 2017 was withdrawn after only two days of circulation. Here, we explore why and how Pepsi’s attempt to join the resistance was rejected, thereby establishing a baseline of neither commercial success nor social change; that is, ineffective and inconsequential corporate abuse of the resistance. We then juxtapose the Pepsi ad with a number of more successful examples of corporate communication that has garnered public support and/or acceptance as expressions of genuine critique, e.g. the range of 2017 Super Bowl ads that got positive reviews for their more or less explicitly anti-Trump messages (from It’s A 10’s warning of four years of awful hair to 84 Lumber’s insistence that all walls should have open gates), the ‘partriarchy-proof’ underwear Thinx’ feminist messages and activities, and Adidas’ and Nike’s respective bids for diversity and equality. Our theoretical answers, and conceptual framework, draws on the literature on political CSR (Scherer and Palazzo, 2007) and corporate citizenship (Matten and Crane, 2005). However, we depart from a focus on discrepancies between companies’ practices and their CSR programmes (Christensen et al., 2013); instead, we focus on communicative aspects of CSR (Hoff-Clausen and Ihlen, 2015; Morsing, 2006) and the ways in which they are used by corporations for self- presentations as political actors beyond CSR programmes (Palazzo and Scherer, 2006).

We will conclude that there is not one resistance brand, but a series of ways in which corporations engage with anti-Trump discourse each of which has different potentials for upsetting/upholding the current social order.
StatusUdgivet - 2017
BegivenhedSocial Media and Social Order - Oslo, Norge
Varighed: 30 nov. 20172 dec. 2017


KonferenceSocial Media and Social Order

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