With so many businesses vying to be in the public eye and be the next ‘cool kid’ on social media, it was only a matter of time before companies began to weigh in on national days, events, and other holidays that were Instagram-friendly. National days can be a great way of boosting a business into the public eye, as well as aiding in market growth: World Book Day, for example, increased the UK children’s book market by an amazing £1.4 million in 2016.
But what was once a great way to show support has, potentially, taken something of a darker turn. Companies who are jumping on bandwagons and, for want of a better phrase, talking the talk without walking the walk are quickly coming under scrutiny of customers who are more than savvy to these tactics.
The BBC recently reported on the barrage of companies and brands donning the rainbow-colours of LGBTQ+ Pride in June this year — an act which has gone from seeming supportive of this powerful movement to simply ‘rainbow-washing’. Without transparency or any meaningful change being seen within these companies, donning a rainbow-coloured logo for the month is seen as corporate hijacking and little more.
Where do we draw the line between genuine displays of support for national days and campaigns, and companies taking advantage?
We’ve seen it all before
National days, months, or events becoming tangled in a commercial grip is not a new thing, nor is it necessarily a bad thing. It can simply be mishandled to the point of public fatigue. A great example of this is Valentine’s Day.
What used to be a day of romance, born of the likes of Charles, Duke of Orleans, Chaucer, and Shakespeare has become a nearly universally-panned corporate holiday. The 1840s saw newspapers tout the holiday as a way to engage in more ‘soul-play’ and less ‘head-work’ — essentially, an 1840’s version of self-care!
Continued commercialisation saw the ‘valentine’ aspect shift from a person to an object to gift another. This was a crucial element to Valentine’s Day’s commercial shift: the idea of the ‘valentine’ was now attributed to a gift, which meant companies could offer said gift to purchase!
Now, 66 per cent of U.K. adults forgo the gift-giving day of romance. Is this proof that a saturation of companies all vying to be seen within an event can ruin what makes it special?
The gesture needs to be sincere
One of the key links between how Valentine’s Day was warped and the current issues of companies jumping on the Pride Month bandwagon is the matter of sincerity. Without the sense of sincerity, customers can quickly feel a company’s efforts become tacky at best, and self-centred at worst.
That’s not to say that companies shouldn’t get involved in national days, months, and events. But the brands that wish to do so should ensure that they are researching the event and pick those that align with the company’s core values and policies. If a company is not willing to be transparent about its recycling policy, for example, it wouldn’t be deemed very genuine in the eyes of the customer for the company loudly participate in Earth Day! On the flip side, something more jovial like National Slushie Day, celebrated with an in-office slush machine, can make for an easy, playful hashtag on social media without seeming forced.
Showing support for a national day is a great move for businesses, but it mustn’t be a mindless move. Ensure your business is shown in a favourable light by backing your support with visible action.