Appropriation of Brands by White Nationalists and the KKK

Well, here’s a brand study that no one wants to take on: How to Wrangle Your Brand Back from the KKK.

Did the Detroit Red Wings, Tiki Torch and others have KKK interactions in their brand management crisis plans? I’m thinking, probably not. Will I do a double take next time I need some mosquito repellant apparatuses for my muggy Florida backyard – worried that I may be funding some violent, insane, crazy and cowardly hate mongers with my purchase of a tiki? Probably not. Do I think all Red Wings players support the Alt Right movement? Umm – no.

But, the happenings this weekend have put some companies at the top of several news channels, and it’s not the feel-good stories they spend their community engagement dollars on – they’re there because the KKK, nationalists and other hate groups have endorsed or appropriated their products or brand marks.

Tiki Brand – This is a small company in Wisconsin that makes products to “enhance backyard gatherings.” They immediately came out and strongly said they don’t associate with any groups and don’t support them either. Good call. Good first step. I don’t think they needed to do much more to protect themselves. However, it would be nice to see them discuss posting a small percentage of fees to support the local NAACP or relief effort in Charlottesville. I think it would only be fair to these hate groups to have to support cleaning up the piles of sadness and garbage they’ve left in a great town.

Detroit Red Wings – A much larger brand with more reach to make an impact is going further – threatening to sue the Michigan group that has altered the Detroit Right Wings logo for their own purposes. The NHL Franchise is considering all legal courses and issued a similar statement as Tiki Brand not supporting the use of the logo by hate groups. They are proud of their tenets to honor inclusivity and diversity, etc. Good stuff. I hope they do sue rather than let it drop – anything to dissuade groups that piggyback to moderate awareness on the good work and investment of others brand image is “game on” in my book!

Merck Pharamceuticals – Big Pharma may not typically be your feel-good brand story, but today for me, it is. In response to Trump’s soft comments on this national travesty, the CEO of Merck quit the American Manufacturing Council. The CEO stated they needed to “take a stand against intolerance and extremism.” I don’t know Kenneth Frazier, but I like his style. He didn’t need three days to talk to his board and take some votes and socialize it up the flagpole – he just did it. (Stocks were up for Merck yesterday too. I’m not at all qualified to know if this is a result of the stand he took, but sounds good!)

Props to the CEO of Under Armour for resigning too. Let’s not forget that these are prominent positions on committees that have the ear of the President of the United States of America.

So, all in all, maybe not the best news days for these companies, but they handled it well. They’ve all done a great thing for their employees, their shareholders, their customers and their communities to shame hate, promote inclusivity and not remain silent. They were decisive and clear. Could they have taken another step? Probably, but we’ll applaud the quick and immediate actions taken so far!

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