Out of Scope Issue 79: Big LinkedIn Lies from a (Former) Social Media Darling
Plus: branding updates for Russian Starbucks, water, and tennis.
This week, Game of Thrones is back in our collective consciousness, a big announcement out of the White House, Footloose vibes in Finland, and a Fenty ketchup collab is on the market.
💡ON OUR MINDS:
A cancelation that graduates are feeling good about
As of Thursday, all student loan borrowers making less than $125,000 annually will have $10,000 of federal loan debt forgiven, while Pell Grant recipients will have $20,000 forgiven. The White House also extended the pause on payments until December 31, stating firmly it will be the *final* extension.
The rumored cancelation of student loans has been a political tool and a carrot dangling in front of borrowers for years. Student loan payments froze began April 2020, with the pause being extended six times before President Joe Biden made a major announcement this week before payments were expected to resume on September 1.
While many celebrated the decisive action, the delivery itself took some serious time to get here. From its initial promise during the campaign to the hype and buildup surrounding the announcement, whispers letting us know the action was coming for weeks.
Is this hard launch going to serve the Democrats well in the midterms? Did the buildup weaken what could have been a larger public opinion win for Biden? Will Biden’s meme alter ego Dark Brandon’s dark plans march forward unimpeded?
Regardless, the White House clearly has no plans of letting up on its winning streak, finishing the week with a rapid-fire round of “this you?” on Twitter, aimed at calling out hypocrisy over PPP loan forgiveness.
Acyn @AcynGreene: For our government just to say ok your debt is completely forgiven.. it’s completely unfair https://t.co/V0yJWYSbot
🏆 BRAND FAIL OF THE WEEK: Dan Price
Hold the “Likes,” “Celebrates,” or “Support” buttons, y’all, LinkedIn darling Dan Price’s reign appears to be over. Late last week, Price announced he was resigning as CEO of Gravity Payments, the company where he infamously took a drastic pay cut in 2015 to guarantee a $70k minimum salary for all employees. Immediately, Twitter users zoned in on his plan to “focus full time on fighting false accusations made against me.”
The next day, a New York Times’ searing expose hit, outlining multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and his ex-wife’s domestic violence claims. And just as quickly as his brand was built by social media, it was torn down.
Throughout the piece, reporter Karen Weise masterfully places the allegations against Price in conversation with his greatest social media hits (ex. “Lifting someone out of poverty is the most effective anti-depressant in the world,” liked 185,000 times), all of which emulate the woke, benevolent boss stereotype typically reserved for a satirical film produced by studio A24.
The end result is a stunning dissonance between his personal brand, once called “the one moral CEO in America” by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, and the allegedly abusive, toxic, untruthful man behind the screen. And it sent social media users and reporters alike down the rabbit hole to assess what was fact versus fiction, dissecting the lawsuit behind his pay cut, the suppression of his ex-wife’s TEDx talk, and the real story behind the infamous Tesla “gift.”
There’s no question that Price understands the value of social media in controlling the narrative. But perhaps he didn’t anticipate that when your brand and platform is built on a foundation of questionable ethics, it’s only a matter of time until the house of cards crumbles.
📡 ON OUR RADAR
Starbucks’ Russian flagship store in Moscow reopened last week with a new name and a familiar look. The company withdrew from the country in solidarity with the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, resulting in this geopolitically charged rebrand and the missing of a major opportunity to call it TsarBucks.
Last month a SUNY New Paltz Marketing studentfiled a lawsuit against fast-fashion giant H&M for “greenwashing” and misleading consumers in its advertising around the sustainability of its clothing. The student claims she overpaid for a “conscious” piece of clothing, which reportedly used more water to manufacture than initially disclosed. H&M’s response? It was a result of “technical issues.” This is not the first time H&M has lacked transparency when it comes to sustainability, and some can argue its commitments are just marketing tactics.
It covers 80% of the Earth, comprises 60% of our bodies, enables life itself – and now it comes in a beer can. Water is having a fresh commercial moment, with more and more canned water companies leaning into the masculine, edgy aesthetics typically reserved for the most mild of alcoholic beverages.
HBO Max has been utilizing a number of marketing tactics starting in 2020 to drum up excitement for House of the Dragon, a Game of Thrones spinoff that takes place 200 years before the start of its predecessor. To garner attention of old and potentially new viewers, they launched a number of campaigns varying from immersive Comic Con experiences, themed Snapchat filters, a Duolingo course for one of the fictional languages, and even a dragon hatching app. It appears as if it all paid off. HBO announced that nearly 10 million people watched the premiere of House of the Dragon, making it the most watched series premiere in HBO and HBO Max history.
Next week’s U.S. Open has inspired a number of marketing efforts across industries. 2021 generated $1.95 billion in tennis apparel sales and is anticipated to hit $2.02 billion this year. Brands such as American Eagle Outfitters, Lacoste, and Evian, are capitalizing on tennis’ moment in the fashion zeitgeist and introducing tennis-inspired styles and accessories. Moderna, is promoting their COVID-19 booster at the U.S. Open with tennis legend Billie Jean King. The pharmaceutical company kicked off the campaign with a video dedicated to King’s historical tennis career under the hashtag #ChangeMakers.
In an effort to combat an impending recession and inflation costs, some companies are shortening parental leave back to legally required minimums. The number of companies offering paid maternity leave beyond what is required by law declined to 35% along with the share of employers offering paid paternity leave dropped to 27%. In an age where employees improved benefits and work-life balances all while employers are trying to put off layoffs, we’re curious to see how this will affect the job market.
After Finland’s PM Sanna Marin came under fire for partying with friends, businesswomen around the globe posted videos of them dancing and partying as a sign of solidarity. To that we say, take a page out of Footloose, and keep up the good work, Sanna!
From being removed as the President of Planned Parenthood to hitting the airwaves with her COVID takes, Leana Wen’s had a busy few years, during which time she’s cultivated friends and foes. This week, the foes were particularly loud in their criticism as 600 public health activists petitioned the American Public Health Association to remove her from an upcoming panel, “Harassment, bullying and death threats: Staying the course while under attack.” The petition accuses Dr. Wen of promoting “unscientific, unsafe, ableist, fatphobic, and unethical practices” throughout the pandemic.
In case you missed these stories this week.
Apple’s location-sharing app Find My Friends has morphed into a friendship landmark, and as with all location-sharing platforms, a privacy concern.
Dr. Anthony Fauci announced that he will step down as Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and as President Joe Biden’s official chief medical advisor at the end of the year, concluding his public service career that’s lasted over 50 years.
Rihanna’s beauty line, Fenty Beauty has partnered with the satirical art collective MSCHF for a limited-edition condiment themed makeup collaboration called “ketchup or makeup.”
A star-studded cast of Kim Kardashian, Kevin Hart, and Sylvester Stallone take on a new project: exacerbating California’s drought.
Instagram’s latest beta feature Candid Challenges looks eerily similar to social media app BeReal’s more casual platform.
Former kickboxer turned “king of toxic masculinity” Andrew Tate has been banned from TikTok, Twitch, and Meta for distributing content that violates community guidelines.
The Girl Scouts are ready for their eCommerce badges and we’re ready to try their new cookie flavor.
Tech startup Sanas released software aimed at removing accents in real time - unknowingly perpetuating the problem it was designed to solve, racial bias.
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
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