Purpose, CSR and rebranding: when politics plagiarizes business

If you are one of the 66% of French people who watch series at least once a week, you have probably heard of The Boys, this trashy and gore show that dents the mythology of the American superhero with perfect morals. The synopsis is quite simple: in an imaginary American society, super (for superhumans) are augmented humans with supernatural physical abilities. The most powerful among them are united within a collective, the Sevenwhose marketing and communication are managed by the company Wanted.

Spoiler alert: season 3, episode 4.

The super fast African American A trainwhose abilities diminish over time, decides to go through a rebranding staff to retain their place within the Seven. Royal blue is replaced by wax patterns, and the defense of the rights of the African-American community becomes its new leitmotif. This marketing renaissance is exemplified in a promotional campaign for an energy drink that parodies the pepsi one shot with model Kendall Jenner in 2017. In both clips, protesters come face to face with law enforcement charged with repress them; confrontation seems inevitable, and it is thanks to the appearance of deus ex machine Kendall Jenner or A-Train that the worst is avoided. With social peace restored, trade can therefore resume and we don’t forget to present the product in the last scene.

Are companies moving left?

Why mention this series? Because it testifies to a politicization of brands and companies, which accelerated during the 2010s with the advent of the citizen-consumer. From now on, individuals increasingly want the products they consume to reflect their ideas or their identities. Politics took this into account and institutionalized this new moral requirement with CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), engraved in French legislative marble with the Pacte law. Companies were strongly invited to ” integrate social and environmental concerns into their business activities and their relations with stakeholders “.

One could have imagined, with a touch of cynicism, that things would have stopped there and that the company, being in no way forced to perform, would have refused to submit to a new social capitalism. It was quite the opposite. Not only have they integrated this new standard, with more or less will, but they have succeeded in preempting the field by actively participating in its definition. The entrepreneur, no longer hesitating to participate in public debate, has turned into an activist and sometimes a theoretician. There are many examples of militant leaders: Michel-Edouard Leclerc, Pascal Demurger, Emmanuel Faber, or Serge Papin. The company, strengthened by this new political responsibility, now proposes to act before – or even without – the politicians legislating.

A political legitimacy for the company which is not without consequence on an agent who faces it: the State; if it does not announce its disappearance, because capitalism cannot function without the existence of a legal superstructure, it nevertheless reduces it to a “technorationality” to use a formula from Pierre Mussothat is to say to a management and “decision-making” entity.

Extending the company domain

To avoid finding himself totally depoliticized in a context made all the more complicated by a democratic crisis of representation, politicians are desperately trying to cling to the wagon by parodying the company.

Purpose, CSR and rebranding: when politics plagiarizes business