Out of Scope Issue 75: Global Warming Gossip and a Bad Reputation
Someone alert Lady Whistledown…
This week, we’ve got celebrity emissions, musical lawsuits, and a whole bunch of Erics on deck. Plus, Beyoncé makes a brand blunder, Sprite’s going green(er), COVID-19 guidance remains murky, and Uber tests a new feature.
💡ON OUR MINDS:
A Tale of Three Erics
The political cryptid known as Donald J. Trump weighed in on the Missouri Senate primary this week between Eric Greitens, Eric McElroy, and Eric Schmitt by endorsing… Eric.
Multiple Erics swooped in to accept the endorsement when in fact Trump meant to duck out of having to endorse anyone at all.
Since the 45th president’s dismissal from social media, the man himself hasn’t cropped up in the public eye with any real frequency, save for the usual vague re-election campaigning.
Known for his carefree and heavy-handed communication style, Trump’s endorsement seems to be a deliberate attempt to confuse the race and cause infighting.
This serves as a reminder that the former president’s media and political influence may seem smaller, but it’s certainly not gone.
The World’s Worst Celebrity Emissions
Social media has been buzzing since Yard released a list of celebrities with the most private jet CO2 emissions. This comes weeks after Kylie Jenner faced backlash for a 17-minute private jet flight. Despite the flack Jenner faced, Yard ranked her number 19. Audiences were shocked to find that the top-ranked offender was singer Taylor Swift.
The news contrasts Swift’s wholesome brand, prompting the singer to shake it off, citing that she often lends out her private jet and that many of the flights were not her own.
The conversation around climate change and individual impact is confusing and often polluted by qualifiers and exceptions like this. While Swift does outrank other celebrities by usage, it is worth wondering whether corporations’ carbon footprints might outweigh an individual's climate responsibility.
As the climate crisis becomes more urgent, how will celebrities like Swift marry their carbon footprint with their brand reputations? As consumers continue to demand brands take accountability for their own climate impact, it will be interesting to see if Swifties and fans of the other top CO2 emission offenders will start demanding the same.
A Shondaland Scandal (but not that Scandal)
Someone alert Lady Whistledown: there's a scandal in the air! After Bridgerton premiered on Netflix in late 2020, Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear shot to TikTok fame for their 60-second musical adaptations of the internet’s favorite scenes and characters, breathing new air into the original material and creating a cultural phenomenon that consumed users’ For You pages.
Soon enough, the Bridgerton cast announced themselves as fans and the women embarked on the morning talk show circuit. They released a full concept album entitled “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical” and went on to win a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album in 2022.
While the women have always acknowledged they do not own the intellectual property, they’ve long suggested Netflix supports their work, which TikTok users and critics alike have hailed for “changing theater culture.”
Fast forward to this week, when it was announced that Netflix is suing the two women for infringement of intellectual property, with their recent concert series appearing to be the powder keg moment. The dust-up makes for an interesting counterpoint to Disney’s approval of “Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical” in 2020, which went off without a hitch or a lawsuit.
While fans initially came to Barlow and Bear’s defense, aghast that Netflix would target artists whose work they previously touted in their own social media content, the tide shifted once details came to light about the pair’s refusal to cooperate regarding proper licensing and live events. Ultimately, neither Netflix nor Barlow and Bear emerge from this scandal looking fully innocent in the court of public opinion.
Additionally, the lawsuit poses new questions for lawyers, fans, and artists alike. Works of “fan fiction” have historically been protected under the fair use doctrine. If the lawsuit continues to a courtroom without settlement, the verdict will undoubtedly have huge implications for fandoms, artistry, and online culture.
🏆 BRAND ??? OF THE WEEK: Beyoncé
Beyoncé is known for seamless product launches. Her team’s marketing approach has always been less is more – encapsulated best by her inventing the surprise album in 2013. Thus, the artist surprised many when, for once, she actually promoted her project RENAISSANCE, which was released last week to critical acclaim.
However, this latest release has attracted some critical buzz, forcing Beyoncé to deviate from her traditional measured and ***Flawless approach to communicating. Amid a separate minor squabble about the artist Kelis and uncredited sampling, Queen Bey has faced criticism for the inclusion of an offensive term in a song on her seventh studio album. What’s more, this comes mere weeks after the singer Lizzo faced nearly identical backlash over the same phrase.
Linguistic missteps are seemingly common nowadays, but for someone whose every move in the public eye is so deliberate and masterful, it begs the question: how does an indisputable popular icon handle a dispute such as this?
Beyoncé has spent the last two decades cultivating an image not only as an artist but as a devoted advocate, a vanguard of Black entertainment, and an all-around powerhouse. Although her team has quietly stated plans to re-release the two controversial songs, her bending to public will is a shocking deviation for the artist. We’re wondering: once your reputation and personal brand have reached such impossible heights, how can you go back to being a regular industry player, dealing with a routine PR crisis?
📡 ON OUR RADAR
Trading in green packaging for a greener impact, Coca-Cola Co. announced they’re swapping Sprite’s classic green plastic packaging for more sustainable, clear bottles. Sprite’s green bottle has been around since the company’s U.S. launch in 1961.
Some companies are experimenting with sound to communicate what visuals can’t. Though sound’s place in branding has historically been reserved for witty jingles, companies like Panera have begun developing unique audio assets and incorporating them into their ad campaigns to boost audience engagement. As companies strive to engage their audiences amidst oversaturated markets, we imagine it’s just the beginning of audio branding.
Uber is test-driving a new feature for employees that allows them to view ride fares for a trip upfront, prior to accepting the ride request. This isn’t exactly a major detour for Uber; it’s their latest attempt to maintain employee satisfaction amid rising gas prices and post-pandemic peak demand. The tech giant recently hit a bump in the road that was pretty public, so we will see if the rideshare company continues to course correct in the future.
The torrid love affair between TikTok and the music industry continues this week with two strategic moves. A trademark was filed for TikTok Music, a potential music streaming service, and a new partnership with Ticketmaster allows users to find live events they might want to attend in-app. TikTok has become a dominant player in the music industry, launching #1 hits out of the blue and prompting labels to expect viral TikToks from their artists. We’ll be watching out for how TikTok continues to change streaming…
Are the tables turning in the employer-employee power dynamic once again? The Wall Street Journal reports that CEOs are getting down to brass tacks and abandoning the softer tone of the early pandemic years. It’s all about conserving cash - and apparently that comes with internal swag police.
Biden’s “rebound” Covid case has some questioning the CDC’s continued guidance of five days of isolation. Despite evidence that some people remain contagious for a longer period (eight days on average), the CDC does not explicitly recommend a negative test for those who want to resume their usual activities. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky’s response: “As we put forward our CDC guidance, we have to do so, so that they are relevant, feasible, followable by Americans.” Still, some experts say that as the U.S. leader in public health guidance, the CDC should be recommending what’s best for public health - not what’s easiest.
Beloved voice of baseball Vin Scully has died at 94. Esteemed as one of the greatest sports broadcasters of all time, Scully masterfully served as the Dodgers' voice in Brooklyn and Los Angeles for 67 years. Scully’s eloquent storytelling elevated the game. He was a Dodgers cornerstone throughout the ages as they cycled through baseball greats like Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, all the way to Clayton Kershaw.
We all know what a podcast ad sounds like - or do we? An article in Bloomberg shared that guests are paying up to $50,000 to appear on popular podcasts. The lack of disclosure about the financial agreement between guests and hosts combined with the intimate and personal nature of podcast conversations could unintentionally deceive listeners of the pay-for-play nature of these podcasts. The Federal Trade Commission discussed how the lack of transactional awareness can mislead consumers’ actions following listening to what is actually an advertisement rather than a regular podcast episode.
In case you missed these stories this week.
After last week’s Instagram drama, Adam Mosseri joined Casey Newton to discuss how the platform plans to walk back some of the changes to ease users’ concerns (albeit temporarily). Despite Mosseri’s earlier suggestions, it appears that sometimes the algorithms don’t have a real-time pulse on what people really want.
The slap heard around the world continues to make headlines: Will Smith broke his silence to apologize to Chris Rock for slapping him at The Oscars via a five-minute long YouTube video.
Cat food brand Fancy Feast unveiled their pop-up restaurant, Gatto Bianco, to celebrate the brand’s new product line. The Italian-style trattoria will feature human-friendly dishes inspired by Fancy Feast’s new “Medleys” line including “Beef Ragú Recipe with Tomatoes & Pasta in a Savory Sauce”.
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print:
This week’s newsletter is brought to you by Alabama RushTok, Normal, and The Pants Store.
Thanks for reading Out of Scope! Subscribe for more of the week’s reputation and communications news.