Out of Scope Issue 71: Brands Respond to Roe v. Wade
Plus: DTC brands confront inflation and Elmo gets vaccinated.
Like many Americans, Hirsch Leatherwood has spent much of the week making sense of the landmark Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade. Companies and their communications departments are figuring out what (if anything) to say. We rounded up some initial statements and conundrums that have already emerged, along with our usual diet of marketing news and media chatter.
💡ON OUR MINDS: Post-Roe America
Last week, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade by a vote of 6 to 3. Since then, Americans and American businesses have been determining exactly what this means for them.
Official corporate responses to Roe v. Wade have varied. Meta (formerly Facebook) told employees not to discuss the ruling on wide-reaching internal channels. On other hand, Patagonia announced that it would bail out any employees who were arrested in Roe-related protests. The Skimm put together this quick, helpful Instagram post that rounds up corporate policies and statements in response to the ruling.
The ruling has already raised several concerns about privacy in the corporate context. Tech companies with obvious connections (like period-tracking apps) are rushing to adapt, while other more distant stakeholders are exploring the ruling’s implications on their digital privacy policies. Meanwhile, other companies are facing what Vox’s Emily Stewart calls “logistical and existential” challenges. Some companies like Disney and Dick’s Sporting Goods have sought to support their employees who need abortions with travel stipends, but how much access should an employer have to that sort of information?
The NYT pointed out that Plan B, backed by all-male teams of investors, stands to make record profits (provided the FDA doesn’t ban the product).
No matter where you or your employees stand on this issue, the intensity of the present moment is impacting your business. Studies show current event stressors sap employee motivation.
🏆 BRAND FAIL OF THE WEEK: New York Mag’s Cancellation Controversy, Part 2
In last week’s Out of Scope, we unpacked the controversy around New York Magazine’s divisive “Canceled at 17” cover story. Controversy alone doesn’t make a story bad; good journalism can be divisive. But in the days since the story’s original publication, new details have emerged that call the piece’s integrity into question.
Elizabeth Weil, author of the highly-contentious article, didn't disclose to readers that her children attend the same high school as Diego, the subject of the article that many accused her of being deeply sympathetic towards. Gawker's take:
"New York was faced with an editorial conundrum: Being frank about Weil’s involvement in the story would risk subjecting its underage sources to public scrutiny. It would have also revealed the piece for what it was: a personal, and by extension, particular, story — not, as it purported to be, a sweeping parable of the times. That tension presents an inherent flaw in the assignment. In omitting the relationship, New York contorted their material to make a tidy allegory about cancel culture. They stripped a potentially sharp piece of its complexity — the gray area in which most good stories, and especially those on sexual assault, reside."
📡 ON OUR RADAR
Forbes released its 50 Most Influential CMOs list, ranked based on influence, brand performance, and brand awareness. Interestingly, almost half of the people on the list appeared there for the first time this year. Who’s on top? Peloton’s Dara Treseder.
We got more details about the Smiths new media venture Semafor this week. They have a website, a team, and $25MM. Will they remake news as we know it? With such a tall order, it’s too soon to tell.
The latest casualty of inflation-fueled narratives we’re seeing in headlines? Direct to consumer brands are facing challenges with supply chain, material cost hikes and more, leading to price increases. Across industries these brands must figure out how to message to their customers, and many are finding their transparency met with praise.
About a year ago, Old Navy embraced size inclusivity, pouring millions into its garment design, store layouts, supply chain, advertising, and pricing strategy. But now, the brand’s sales have fallen 19%, and they’re pulling extended size options from stores. So what happened? Experts say they didn’t understand how much inventory to stock of each size. It takes time — and sustained communication — to attract new audiences.
Watch out Silicon Valley! Toronto is quickly becoming a top location for tech talent. At the city’s Collision Conference, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and industry, François-Philippe said they want the country to be the first place tech entrepreneurs and innovators go to. Canada’s immigration policy is far more lax than the United States, which loses migrating tech talent to long green card waits.
With Jennifer Lopez: Halftime, J. Lo joined the growing list of megastars turning to Netflix documentaries as a vehicle for legacy building and image control. But as the film continues to spawn the gossipy headlines she decries throughout, this one may have been a misfire.
In a classic move that has been equally criticized and praised over time, the latest children’s character collaboration comes in the form of the CDC, the AdCouncil and Sesame Street’s Elmo who have teamed up to get the message out that kids between 6 months and 5 years old are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. This marketing strategy has proven to be effective, as brands and organizations look to new ways to communicate information around what has become a sensitive subject looking to drive maximum impact.
Three-month old NFT and Crypto-themed restaurant, Bored & Hungry, has become more well-known for their food than their allegiance to cryptocurrency. In April, they became the first restaurant to accept ethereum and apecoin payments. Rumors have been swirling around the restaurant that they no longer accept crypto, but co-founder Kevin Seo later said the restaurant only shuts off its crypto option system “from time to time” for upgrades. As interest in crypto and NFTs continues to drop, it’s good news patrons think their burgers are comparable to In-n-Out!
In case you missed these stories this week.
This is a master class in communication from author Tim Pollard on why communication goes wrong and how to fix it.
We enjoyed this Chris Pratt profile that follows his endless press tour to redemption.
Last weekend was the 25th anniversary of Reno v. ACLU, a case that shaped the way we use the internet today. Find out how over at Slate.
Radio Shack announced its reinvention as cryptocurrency retailer, with a series of chaotic Twitter posts leading users to think the account had been hacked.
At Wimbledon, Roblox rolled out virtual 3D WimbleWorld modeled after the Centre Court stadium and digital swag from Andy Murray and Ralph Lauren.
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print: This week’s newsletter is brought to you by crisis management for elephants.