What We’re Reading – May 2022


What We’re Reading is a monthly roundup of current news, commentary, challenges and trends that impact our industry as well as those of our clients. From Wells Fargo’s fake job interviews to the power of kindness in the workplace to Chipotle’s use of a new anti-filter social media app, here’s a look at the news that stood out to our team in May. 


Elon Musk Calls ESG ‘An Outrageous Scam’ after Tesla Was Removed from Index – Allison Prang, The Wall Street Journal

“The S&P Dow Jones Indices removed Tesla from its notable ESG index as part of its yearly rebalancing. Elon Musk—who you may have seen in the news quite a bit lately—stirred sustainability and ESG circles by lashing out via Twitter calling ESG broadly a “scam” and a tool for “leftist” stakeholders. While Musk is entitled to his opinion, the world’s top companies, global consumers and investors clearly think it is not a “scam.” At the end of 2021, ESG funds hit $2.74 trillion in assets. Whether Musk likes it or not, ESG reporting will only grow in importance for companies to implement aggressive ESG strategies as stakeholders demand more action from companies to help curb increasing climate change.” – Michael Grimm

The rise of aspirational capitalism – Jim VandeHei, Axios

“I’ve long admired Jim VandeHei for both his writing and his business acumen, and I think he hits on an important point here that is often lost in all the debate around companies weighing in on societal issues. While most people feel good about supporting companies that align with their personal beliefs, and dislike those that don’t, what they are really looking for is something more to believe in – the “aspirational capitalism” markers described here. I second his takeaway at the end that this prediction will be viewed favorably in the decade to come.” – Andrew Moyer 


Delta Was Facing Intense Pushback From Unhappy Customers.  Its Response Was Brilliant. – Jason Aten, Inc. Magazine

“Airlines are an industry many people love to hate, but there’s no question they depend on the goodwill of their most loyal customers. This article describes an important about-face Delta Airlines made after a well-intentioned policy change for their SkyClubs drew blowback. What I appreciate about this is how quickly they reversed course and how they acknowledged the customer feedback that led to the reversal. This is often a surprisingly difficult thing for companies to do, so when they do it, it should be celebrated and encouraged.” – Nick Kalm

Abbott Labs is fumbling the baby formula crisis – Crain’s Editorial Board, Crain’s Chicago Business

“Abbott Nutrition is at the center of the ongoing nationwide baby formula shortage, and a single factory is under scrutiny for its possible linkage to the cases of four babies who fell ill, and two who died, after ingesting formula made at the plant. When the plant closed for an FDA investigation, a national crisis ensued, revealing the supply risks facing an industry dominated by a few companies. The editorial smartly points out that the Abbott CEO “has been nearly invisible up until now on a calamity that’s rocking his company and the nation,” highlighting a missed opportunity to reassure concerned consumers and reiterate the company’s commitment to safety.” – Gene White

At Wells Fargo, a Quest to Increase Diversity Leads to Fake Job Interviews – Emily Flitter, The New York Times

“Wells Fargo is currently under scrutiny after seven current and former employees claimed they were instructed by bosses or human resource managers to interview “diverse” candidates, despite the hiring decision already being made. It always surprises me how far companies will go to try and look like they are incorporating DE&I practices instead of actually putting in the work towards more diverse and inclusive work environments. Companies can no longer just pretend to incorporate these practices, there is a higher level of standard that society is expectant of. If these interviews truly are just about helping Wells Fargo record its diversity efforts on paper, the company as a whole should really be looking into their practices and making efforts to fix this issue and do better.” – Steph Carlson

Grubhub apologizes for ‘free lunch’ promo that slammed NYC restaurants – Tim Carman, The Washington Post

“Chaos ensued this month when Grubhub announced their “Free Lunch for NYC” promotion. With over 6,500 orders per minute, the popular food delivering service overstepped its forecast of orders that put NYC restaurants and their customers into a panic; causing the platform to crash multiple times which lead to thousands of delays and unfulfilled orders. Grubhub’s lunch promotion placed a major burden on restaurant owners and angered its customers, putting the company’s reputation in an unfortunate position. Moving forward, Grubhub will have to better communicate to its restaurant partners and customers to ensure similar crises do not happen in the future.” – Alex Engel


Don’t Underestimate the Power of Kindness at Work – Ovul Sezer, Kelly Nault, and Nadav Klein, Harvard Business Review

“As the saying goes, ‘It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.’ Employees have countless interactions every day at work, such as with team members or direct supervisors. Whether or not to express kindness is a choice. While it is easy to make a concerted effort with those we have immediate and direct exchanges, the decision to harness the power of kindness can also apply to a broader organization as a whole. Companies can make a choice to leverage communications programs and campaigns with their employees and show kindness through public recognition, appreciation, and collaboration. With leaders prioritizing the creation of a strong company culture, pursuing this route of kindness through communication should be atop everyone’s list.” – Brendan Griffith


Coors Light wants to chill rooftops this summer with novel billboards – Sara Karlovitch, Marketing Dive

“One of the chief concerns of millennials are the impacts of climate change. With that in mind, Coors Light set out to create billboards that no one can see, but everyone can feel. Using white paint that reflects 85% of sunlight, the beer giant has painted white billboards on rooftops to reduce the temperature in Miami homes. The fact that no one can see these ads seems counterproductive to advertising, but it suggests a sense of altruism, something that many companies struggle to convey.” – Fred Walls

Chipotle gets candid with the anti-filter social media app BeReal – Kendra Clark, The Drum

“A new app, BeReal, encourages the posting of authentic content by notifying users to post what they’re doing at unpredictable times throughout the day. Chipotle is among several brands to join the platform, posting promo codes exclusive to the app’s users. BeReal’s target audience is very niche and won’t be a good fit for every brand, so before considering joining, they should consider if they feel they will have a genuine and authentic story to tell.” – Haley Hartmann

The Sprout Social U.S. Social Media Trends for 2022 and Beyond – Sprout Social

“In the company’s ninth annual social trends index, Sprout Social explored findings from consumers as well as marketers across the U.S. to see how trends have changed from both perspectives. Most notable to me, were the continued importance on authentic content (nothing overly polished), as well as short-form videos. Additionally, 71% of consumers think it’s important for brands to take a stand on sensitive issues – a 7.6% increase from 2017. As communicators, it’s our role to provide strategic direction for how leadership should consider approaching complex “big” issues. While they’re challenging conversations, this report provides further evidence of their value, and how traditional internal topics around brand identity and values are continuing to be more and more important to consumer purchasing decisions.” – Fran Fyten