Cut The Bull That Comes With Women Saudi Drivers

Cut The Bull That Comes With Women Saudi Drivers

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Women belong in the kitchen, right? Wrong! Now they can drive in Saudi, and you know what that means? They can fetch the groceries too!

Bet the Feminists clicked on this article looking to wage a social media war. No need. The afore mentioned thinking is exactly how the quick acting social media teams of major car manufacturers are acting after King Salman announced the lift on banning women drivers in the kingdom.

Whether we think it’s progressive is not the debate here right now. I personally think its great that such a country who has long ‘protected’ its women from the horrors on the road now believes that women are capable of taking care of themselves out there. The issue? Let’s take one step back and mention one South African social brand so you can see where I am heading. Take Bic Pens with their infamous 2015 #HappyWomensDay post reading, “Look like a Girl, Act like a Lady, Think like a Man, Work like a Boss”. 

bic-campaign-on-womens-day

What does a Pen in South Africa and a Car in Saudi Araba have in common you ask? All their CEO’s have a twig and two berries (66% of those car manufacturers who ‘praised’ Saudi Women drivers on social, are white men) and they didn’t get there without some form of business knowledge.

Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing

If there is an opportunity to increase sales and dominate a market, hell they are going in, briefing their agencies to start the marketing and… well, cue the thoughtlessness.

Thinking before Tweeting 

There is nothing like a good tactical on Social Media. Every brand wants to be Oreos during the super bowl when the lights went out. Every Marketing Manager wants to be the one to get his or her clever execution out first because time is of the essence.

Did the car manufacturers do great tactical work? Absolutely!

Did the car manufacturers think about the role they didn’t play in the fight for the cause? Absolutely NOT! They just saw another opportunity to capitalise on ‘to be relevant’.

This ever-connected digital world we live in comes with an opportunity for brands to build deep relationships with their customers. Sure relevance is key, but do (straight, white, male) brands have a place in that conversation now that the hard work is done (by strong Saudi Women)? Was fighting for women’s rights to drive in Saudi ever part of their Brand DNA before the last week of September 2017? Nope, they just see an increase in sales come June 2018.

Common amongst those tactical auto brands’ values were customer service promises, the comfort of people in cars, and sustainability. Only one vouched for the respect for diversity, while another strived for integrity, vowing to keep its doors open to men and women alike. While I can understand that a Trans National Corporation needed to respect culture and politicophere of Saudi to be able to operate there, was there not an opportunity to lead the charge and help the 10- year fight for equality on the Kingdom’s roads? Would their auto brands need to advertise after being part of the battle after that?

The irony is that The Women to Drive Movement started with a 2007 YouTube video. Did none of these brands have an ORM tool that picked this up? I wonder if any evaluated the risks vs the returns had they supported the movement.

Sullivan Principles Anyone?

Back in 1977, The Sullivan Principles was a part of the world’s Corporate Social Responsibility as brands applied pressure on apartheid, South Africa. The corporate protest came with the thought that if business divested in SA, apartheid would eventually be cash-strapped and collapse. At the time General Motors was the biggest employer of Black South Africans and eventually was the first to pull out.

In 1999 the new Global Sullivan Principles was unveiled by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the preamble reads:

“The objectives of the Global Sullivan Principles are to support economic, social and political justice by companies where they do business; to support human rights and to encourage equal opportunity at all levels of employment, including racial and gender diversity on decision making committees and boards; to train and advance disadvantaged workers for technical, supervisory and management opportunities; and to assist with greater tolerance and understanding among peoples; thereby, helping to improve the quality of life for communities, workers and children with dignity and equality.”

Related: Direct Marketing: Go Where Your Customers Are

The first part of the new Sullivan Principles reads:

(We) “express our support for universal human rights and, particularly, those of our employees, the communities within which we operate, and parties with whom we do business.”

If brands actually invested in the people and their lives first, the customers will follow. Do this and there would be no need to be super tactical when it comes to the celebrations of the marginalised. We need brands to value ethical and corporate social responsibility they have in the markets they operate in. We have seen that the likes of General Motors can have an impact on a country, especially in South Africa (let’s drop the fact that they have divested again for the purposes of this).

Bottom line is advertising, marketing and brands have the power to shape the world years before a few people can go at it alone. Yes, businesses need to make money, but see the bigger returns when you are a part of something. The returns will be greater than the PR value you got on that meaningless, thoughtless, and unearned tweet. I promise you.

Donovan White
Donovan White is a Digital Strategist at NATIVE VML. Donovan White has a degree in Journalism from the University of Johannesburg and since then has worked as a Journalist, followed with eight years of dedication to the Digital Marketing industry. Currently he is the Lead Digital Strategist for Nedbank and Amstel and has been named and awarded as the IAB South Africa’s Best Digital Strategist 2017 for his work on Nedbank. Donovan’s expertise in digital started with his passion Social Media Strategy, having developed, implemented and been awarded at Loeries, AMASA, Bookmark and Assegai awards for brands such as Nestle, Dimension Data and Nedbank. He has become a thought leader in the digital industry having appeared regularly on SABC, Carte Blanche, ENCA and CNBC Africa as an opinion leader that can move the South African digital industry forward with his experience of working on over fifty brands across Africa, including the likes of Pernod Ricard, Kulula, L’Oréal and HIV South Africa.