Tell us or else.

The divisive politics of 2016-2017 have begun to force companies to clarify their political or moral stance on the “issues”, and on what is happening in the world. What do we stand for? That’s the question that begs to be answered as extremist discourse of all kinds appear all over the world. With the political, economic, and social uncertainty caused by polarizing events and extremist personalities, brands (and consumers) are coming to a crossroad.

Major brands are learning that they cannot remain neutral and avoid entering into the political debate: Facebook, Kellogg’s, Lego, and many other international companies are having to decide what side they are on, and what that means in the context of advertising and brand values. Some brands, such as Kellogg’s, Allstate, Earthlink and Warby Parker have all recently decided to pull advertising from the Breitbart news website. AppNexus, a programming group, has stated it will no longer provide ad-serving software for the site.

Kellogg’s however, made the decision after an online campaign called Sleeping Giants took a screenshot of the brand’s ad on Breitbart and made it public, prompting complaints from customers. Kellogg’s stated that it pulled advertising from the alt-right site “to ensure our ads do not appear on sites that aren’t aligned with our values as a company.” Breitbart site managers, obviously upset about losing a major company’s advertising budget, have called on users to boycott Kellogg’s, calling its actions “…an escalation in the war by leftist companies…against conservative customers.” A serious accusation, especially considering the fact that with Trump’s “victory”, many people have come out as ‘alt-right’ (neo-nazi), or at least as supporting some aspects of this world view.

Is it worth alienating some customers so that your brand doesn’t support (financially) platforms that promote a view or belief that doesn’t align with your company’s values? The online campaign called Stop Funding Hate thinks so. It has urged major brands like Lego to end advertising deals with UK newspapers and tabloids like the Daily Mail and the Sun. The campaign believes these platforms publish anti-immigrant, racist, and hate-speech filled coverage of current events, especially dealing with the refugee crisis.

Lego apparently listened to Stop Funding Hate’s message, and recently decided to cut ties with The Daily Mail. Stop Funding Hate has faced criticism itself, from some sectors that amount its actions to censorship and a desire to limit the freedom of the press. The campaign’s founder, Richard Wilson, has stated that the purpose of the campaign is not to censor newspapers, but instead to give a voice to consumers who don’t agree with their views. “We’re not saying that the papers shouldn’t say these things – what we’re saying is that customers have the right to say ‘not with my money’.”

–“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” –Albert Einstein