Kalanick’s Out & Online Activism Recenters on Corporations

Travis Kalanick is out at Uber, and Farhad Manjoo ties it to the interplay between social media, brand identity and social/political activism. A great read:

Four things I’m thinking about:

  1. A forward CEO brand can poison a company or inoculate it. Kalanick was a negative brand for Uber, taking the focus off of what what makes Uber useful — its convenience. Contrast this with a guy like Mark Zuckerberg whose company apologizes every week for something detestable Facebook let happen, but is out there talking about connecting the world and having photoshoots with normal people.
  2. Companies have more power than Farhad lets on. Manjoo says there’s been a major loss of power for companies now that social media has become paramount to TV advertising. The power’s not totally in the public’s hands, though, the levers have just shifted. Advertising isn’t a panacea anymore, but celebrity has become more effective. Kalanick is a negative example that shows how companies can regain the traditional marketing power that’s been lost by cultivating and controlling celebrity in CEOs and executives.
  3. Important takeaway:
In a nation where politics have grown pitched and sclerotic, fighting brands online suddenly feels like the most effective political action many of us can take. Posting a hashtag — #deleteUber, for instance, or #grabyourwallet — and threatening to back it up by withholding dollars can bring about a much quicker, more visible change in the world than, say, calling your representative.

I like this lens and it rings true. As company brands become more accessible and politics more sclerotic, people are adapting to affect more change through corporate pressure. Or what ‘feels like’ change.

4. Sclerotic means rigid and unresponsive, I just learned.

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