Regardless of your political opinion, it is clear to see that America has become more divided and polarized over this last Presidential campaign than any other one in my lifetime. Forty percent of people say that this election has caused tension in their friendships, and seven percent of people have lost a best friend because of it. In the first ten days after President Trump was elected, there were 887 documented cases of harassment. Cyberbullying and social media fights are no longer confined to teenagers, but are visible in the comments section of any Facebook post or news story. The problem is so pervasive First lady Melania Trump has made cyberbullying her top issue.
Jessica Correa, SVP of Marketing for Planet Fitness spoke at the Ad Club CMO Breakfast this month about how cyberbullying has helped her company develop its philanthropic brand. Planet Fitness has long called its gyms “Judgement-Free Zones”. In March 2016, Planet Fitness took their branding to a philanthropic level by starting an initiative called the “Judgement Free Generation”, aimed at combatting the constant judgement and bullying that teenagers face every day.
They partnered with Boys and Girls Clubs of America and STOMP Out Bullying, to make the most impact in teen’s out-of-school time when they use social media the most. The gym raised $1.3 million to support these programs, and fund collateral like a digital anti-bullying toolkit. Planet Fitness also donated their time and effort, by creating mini Judgement-Free Zones in Boys and Girls Clubs across America. These in-club gyms have similar equipment to the full-sized Planet Fitness gyms, and the same messaging and branding as well. Thanks to these partnerships, teens can work out and be healthy in a place where they won’t be judged.
Correa told the audience at the breakfast that, the idea of a “philanthropic brand” came about around the same time as Generation Y or the millennial generation because millennials are more interested in how a brand makes a difference in the world.
Denise Lee Yohn, author of What Great Brands Do, believes that brands need to be aware that their philanthropy isn’t just being used as a way to cover up other, less attractive, parts of their business. She told Fortune Magazine that companies should be engaged in “authentic philanthropy”, where a campaign ties back to areas of expertise. To use the previous example, Planet Fitness created mini-gyms and used their “Judgement-Free Zone” to prevent judgement and bullying across America.
At Teak Media + Communication, we understand that corporate philanthropy is most effective when it goes beyond a slogan, marketing campaign or a donation check as Planet Fitness is doing with its “Judgement Free Generation” campaign. Teak is a certified B Corporation, a group of organizations that understand that the brand and the work the company does can have a larger impact on the people, the planet, and the world. Making social responsibility good business as well as the right thing to do will go a long way to healing our polarized nation.