Branding In Times of Class Conflict

Photo by me

Fancy coffee shop. This one happens to be Caribou, but it could be Starbucks or any other.

For some it is a hideout because they have nowhere else to go.

For others it's a quick stop, drop $5, on the way to well-paying job.

Society is way too divided right now between rich and poor...some are wealthy beyond wealth and many are hopeless and desperate.

How will we bridge the gap?

When the 99% and the 1% have completely opposite lives and there is no understanding or reconciliation between them, the meaning of ordinary things like brands becomes contested.

Even a seemingly simple coffee shop can become a hotbed of social conflict.

When was the last time you complained about a non-payer taking your seat at Starbucks?

When two societies live together side by side, and there is no discussion or equity between them, that's a recipe for conflict not easily resolved.

For brands to be successful in this climate, they must commit to giving something back. For example:

1. Tithing percentage of profits to charity

2. Employing members of the local community

3. Partnering with other local businesses to foster employment

4. Setting aside some product for those who can't afford to pay

5. Establishing different product lines so that everyone can afford something

Other more advanced possibilities:

1. Communal tables or seating areas

2. Hosting television screenings, book clubs, etc.

3. Providing a space for community organization and activism

The economics of brand-building demand that as you grow, you give back, and as you give back, you grow.

Anything less is not just a reputation risk, but a recipe for becoming irrelevant as more enlightened businesses take over.

Good luck!


Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, and, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.