When Disney CEO Bob Iger placed social conscience ahead of profits.
It’s not just extreme weather and climate change that rattle us; it’s also the national mood and discordant manner in which some express their feelings to render the rest physically, mentally, and emotionally distressed.
Tweet Rage is the New Road Rage.
With exception to Snow White, whose prolonged slumber ends only with a kiss from a handsome prince, the rest of us remain restless through the night; our autonomic “fight or flight” brain triggers are set on stun.
That’s why so many of us former colonists awoke at 4:30 on the morning of Saturday, May 19, 2018, to watch live the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. For one brief and shining moment, we perpetually rattled Americans found comfort in pageantry, breathtaking vistas, horse-drawn carriages, beautiful people in their stunning attire, a princely kiss, and all of the rest that we hoped would lead us to happily ever after.
By daybreak on the following Monday, President Rumpelstiltskin (the Trickster-in-Chief) resumed his toxic tweeting. His twitter rages so predictable, such a normal part of each freakin’ day, that we cannot help but take notice. Yet, we are no longer shocked by the vitriolic content in his tweets.
We are numb from the brain stun.
Still, his often-outrageous tweeting offers license to many to drop their filters and vent purple rage. Yesterday, comedian and show host Samantha Bee stung herself with an awful comment the she made about the president’s older daughter. It was one that I will not repeat. Advertisers have begun to pull their ads from her show; over the days to come, surely more will bolt.
But it was Roseanne Barr’s unhinged racist tweet storm of Tuesday, May 29— debasing Chelsea Clinton, investor George Soros, and former White House advisor and Obama family confidant Valerie Jarrett — that was a bridge too far for the cast members of the Magic Kingdom to abide.
Presidents set our national tone. Most of the preceding 44 placed nobility of office above and beyond their personal need for attention and profit. By contrast, the 45th among them sets his presidential tone daily using 280 characters, in tweets that are divisive, discordant, and remarkably devoid of the WE pronoun. No longer do many mind their manners, expressing on social media or in person whatever unfiltered, bigoted, and hateful thought comes to mind.
The calendar says 2018, but the rudeness and bigotry expressed harken back to ugly, isolationist 1938. Instead, and in response to so much awfulness, the vast majority of Americans now seek shelter and nobility in the comfort of happily-ever-after escapism like the royal wedding.
Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger is the steady hand who has steered that much-admired brand and its subsidiaries over many years and through some truly daunting challenges. And now, Iger is working to fend off a late-breaking threat: rival Comcast announced its insurgent move to acquire 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets — the studio, cable channels, and content — that, late last year, Disney announced it would add to its corporate umbrella.
The expected fight with Comcast for the Fox properties makes Iger’s job as CEO extremely difficult. But, this past week, the task for him became much harder, because of awful tweeting by the star and executive producer of Disney division ABC Television’s number one hit show of the 2017–18 season.
Roseanne was a cash-cow for ABC, that certainly would have resulted in millions more in network ad sales, next season. And yet, Iger’s team could not abide by Barr’s unacceptable conduct which stood in stark contrast to Disney’s positive, inclusive, and family-friendly brand.
Barr’s twitter rant occurred on Tuesday about 2:45AM Eastern Time; the leadership of Disney announced her show’s cancellation nearly nine hours later around 12:00PM Eastern Time.
No hemming and hawing. No waiting. A swift response. Over.
Barr took to Twitter to apologize, blaming her unfortunate rage on her use of the prescription sleep aid, Ambien. In response, brand manufacturer Sanofi tweeted:
Racism is not a side-effect of our drug.
In the days that have followed Disney’s rapid response to the Roseanne crisis, cynics — including the Trickster-in-Chief — took to Twitter to debase the company and, in particular, CEO Iger for apologizing to Ms. Jarrett, BUT NOT HIM.
Those even-tempered and sensible among us generally praised Disney’s sudden move which is a model for how today’s best companies support their brands, but most of all their consumers, through a culture of corporate social responsibility. Disney’s guests — that’s what they call their consumers — look like America, and the world. They are young and old, wealthy and not, gay and straight, multi-racial, able bodied and differently-abled, and family.
“Disney is a family brand. Most importantly, it is a positive reflection of all of Disney’s guests’ brands: inclusive, respectful, thoughtful, meaningful, joyful, and hopeful,” says Carla Fleming, the CEO of branding and design-thinking firm, Pivoting Strategies, LLC.
“Brands today actually lose revenue and market share when they arrogantly apply the old construct that consumers will surely align to [their] preconceived qualities and attributes. The old ME paradigm no longer builds brands. But, the new WE paradigm mirrors consumers’ hopes, wants, and desires. And companies like Disney that do that well will succeed and continue to succeed, because they fully embrace their consumers’ brand badges.”
So, what happens when a CEO places social conscience ahead of profits? Their companies become fully engaged and committed corporate citizens. In doing so, they fill the decency void created by institutions like the current presidency that have ceded nobility and embraced a divided, tribalized, trivialized good old days past. Forward-thinking brands extend consumer loyalty, scale more profits because they align with and honor their consumers’ values, and hire the best and most purpose-driven talent for whom work represents more than a paycheck.
Kudos to Disney and all of the cast members in the Magic Kingdom. And, good on you, Bob Iger. Good on you.
Our best days lie ahead.
Image credits: Roseanne cast members Roseanne Barr and John Goodman, Adam Rose/ABC Television; Ellicott City, Maryland flooding video, Kali Young; Bob Iger, TheStreet.com; Carla Fleming portrait, PivotingStrategies.com.