When It Comes To Tricky Topics, Are Brands Cool With Controversy?

Remember, just over one year ago, when Oreo posted this to Facebook?


A Facebook post by Oreo that created controversy.

At the time, it felt like the whole country reacted. Some people were thrilled, some people boycotted Oreo, it made national news, and experts debated the potential fall out and what it all meant for Oreo, now that they couldn’t back away from their position.

Fast-forward just twelve months, and the repeal of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) by the Supreme Court is making headlines as a milestone in the history of gay rights.

With all the hubbub that surround Oreo when they posted their rainbow colored cookie to Facebook, would brands think twice about commenting on social media? Clearly this time around, the answer was no.

Retail store Opening Ceremony posted this image to their Instagram account:


Retailer Opening Ceremony share an Instagram post in reaction to DOMA.

And fellow retailer Banana Republic posted this image, even adding a contest element:


Retailer Banana Republic reacts to DOMA

Of course, fashion companies are probably more likely to vocalize their opinions on gay rights, given the nature of their business. But what about credit card companies? MasterCard is also hosting a contest, this time on Twitter, asking people to share a story with the hashtag #AcceptanceMatters, for a chance to win invitations to a VIP party in New York:


Credit card MasterCard react on social media to DOMA

Wedding dress retailer BHLD celebrated within their aesthetics by posting pictures of a same sex wedding that included some of their products:


Wedding dress store BHLDN reacts on Facebook to DOMA

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream took a stand:


Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's reacts on Facebook to DOMA

Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants joined in:


Hospitality company Kimpton reacts on Facebook to DOMA

And even Salesforce mentioned the ruling, despite being much more of a B2B company than a typical consumer facing company:


Salesforce reacts on Facebook to DOMA

So what does that tell us? One of the reasons social media is so incredible (beyond just its popularity) is because it has the ability to show how our thoughts and attitudes, essentially our entire culture, is changing right in front of our eyes.

Not too long ago, it would have been just the Supreme Court decision that let us know a change was happening. Now, we have all the build up and reactions to the decision right in front of us, shared by people of all different races, orientations, backgrounds, genders, economic statuses, and religions. We don’t need a Gallup Poll to tell us how people are thinking, it’s displayed on our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

The fact that so many different kinds of brands didn’t hesitate to share their opinions with the world tells us that, when it comes to gay rights, companies (and an awful lot of their fans and customers) are on board.

I think in the very near future, it will be completely unremarkable if a commercial features a same sex couple, because it will just be so commonplace. Undoubtably there will be dissenters (and perhaps the upset over an interracial couple in a Cheerios commercial weakens my argument) but the tides are certainly turning. In reaction to recent events, brands seem to be saying they are cool with turning something controversial into a part of our everyday conversation.

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