Business of Luxury: Gucci takes a Stand with March For Our Lives
In an industry which doesn’t typically make or take stands, Gucci takes the lead in supporting anti-guns rights. Luxuo’s Business of Luxury segment explores the risks involved in corporate social activism.
Staying silent is going out of style. In fact, it’s been en trende to speak up since President Trump took office on 20 January 2017. As a general rule of thumb, brands don’t typically make political statements. According to the Digital Branding Institute: activist consumers take victories not won during elections and vent them in the marketplace. During the 2016 US Presidential Elections, dozens of companies were singled out for boycotts for their ties or support of President Donald Trump including Nordstrom, Amazon and MillerCoors.
“57% of consumers are more likely to buy from or boycott a brand because of its stance on a social or political issue.” – Edelman
Macy’s bears special mention. It has been attacked from both sides – first for selling Trump’s merchandise and then again for pulling Ivanka Trump’s collection. Statistically speaking, PR firm Edelman discovered that: “57% of consumers are more likely to buy from or boycott a brand because of its stance on a social or political issue.” From a commercial standpoint, brands and companies take an immense revenue risk taking a stand and offending both ends of the political spectrum – from doing too little to doing too much. Yet, all this is changing, in an industry which doesn’t take stands, Gucci takes a stand with March For Our Lives.
In an Industry which doesn’t take stands, Gucci takes a Stand with March for Our Lives
For September 2016 and June 2017 Fashion Weeks, everything from generalist common sense statements like Prabal Gurung tees with phrases like “Girls Just Want to Have Fundamental Rights,” to more pointed, literal statements like New York–based fashion label R13’s “Fuck Trump” have added to the cacophony of activist voices. That said, the big fashion brands, those owned by luxury conglomerates and therefore answerable to shareholders and share prices, don’t typically make political statements to avoid alienating potential consumers who have a wide range of beliefs and opinions.
“We stand with March For Our Lives and the fearless students across the country who demand that their lives and safety become a priority. We have all been directly or indirectly impacted by these senseless tragedies, and Gucci is proud to join this movement with a donation of $500,000.” – Gucci
On 14 February 2017, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School fell victim to another mass shooting. Seven days later, Gucci joined the movement for gun control, pledging $500,000 to the March For Our Lives rally. According to a statement from Gucci, “We stand with March For Our Lives and the fearless students across the country who demand that their lives and safety become a priority. We have all been directly or indirectly impacted by these senseless tragedies, and Gucci is proud to join this movement with a donation of $500,000.”
While it is easy to be cynical and consider the half a million dollars donation to March For Our Lives as nothing but a PR stunt, Gucci is actually taking a fairly large risk given the massive support (if only from a vocal minority) the NRA enjoys and the tremendous funding it can deploy for attack ads. Nevertheless, Gucci is doing more than riding a wave of resurgent anti-gun momentum, the company actually has first hand experience with mass shootngs.
In June 2016, a Gucci manager was among the 49 dead at a Florida nightclub when a gunman unloaded near point blank range at the clubbers. Gucci, among the earliest of high profile fashion labels to take a stand, reflects a new normal for corporate governance where it’s no longer about taking a stand against a globally respected issue. The new reality is, as Trump as shown, it is slightly more risky now to take a stand than it is to stay quiet.
Business of Luxury: Market Dynamics involving Millennials and their social/moral values
According to a study by The Economist, a rising number of millennials and their correlated spending power, is slowly encouraging brands to embrace the social and moral values which align with theirs. This means that increasingly, brands have little choice but to address sociopolitical issues like sustainability, right to choose and even yes, right to live (even if that clashes with gun rights). According to the daa, 79% of millennials prefer to purchase products from a company that operates with a social purpose; a similar majority also prefers to be associated with a company operating with such a social purpose. Leveraging upon social media, this “millennial influence” itself translates into a type of soft power,
“I am truly moved by the courage of these students. My love is with them and it will be next to them on March 24. I am standing with March For Our Lives and the strong young women and men across the United States who are fighting for their generation and those to come.” – Alessandro Michele, Gucci creative director
At the top, a new generation of Chief Executives too lead companies with less hierarchical fervour and more importantly, 73% of them believe consumers are increasingly judging companies on the humanness of their corporate character, thus there’s growing pressure, both from their own increasinging liberal values and economic concerns, that they use their positions to give back to society – if that means Gucci donates $500,000 to March For Our Lives, certainly there’s no better cause than something which has only benefited from “thoughts and prayers” thus far. That said, some industry insiders LUXUO spoke with were less optimistic.
“Gucci is currently favoured by LGBT groups. They themselves are a marginalised segment of society, the brand will not lose any fans over an anti-gun stance. They have everything to gain” – Industry Insider
In a 2014 study by Wolf & Cohne, it was discovered that the top three wish for consumers was that their brands “acted with integrity at all times”. In 2016, a KPMG study of consumer attitudes found that the majority of consumers preferred that their brands resonated with social values similar to their own. Finally, a recent 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study examining consumer attitudes, perceptions and behaviors around corporate social responsibility, showed that companies today need to stand up for social injustices.
“The events over the past year have ignited a groundswell of activism on very divisive topics and Americans are questioning future progress. They are looking to companies to drive change on the issues they hold dear. Now, consumers are no longer just asking, ‘What do you stand for,’ but also, ‘What do you stand up for?”” – Alison DaSilva, Executive VP of CSR Strategy, Cone Communications.
As social media continues to polarise society at an increasing pace, brands can no longer stay neutral. Consumers are taking sides and for many of them, particularly millennials, falling on the right side of history implies that it is no longer acceptable for companies to claim ignorance or non interference on issues which have a clear and unambiguous right side and wrong side. As power shifts increasingly to the corporations and governments appear to be falling its citizens (an article for another time and publication), we now live in an era where brands can no longer afford to stand by the sidelines.