'We have brands which have no basis weighing in': J.M. Smucker CMO

Geoff Tanner addresses head-on how brands within the portfolio such as Smucker's and Dunkin' are navigating this situation.

J.M. Smucker CMO Geoff Tanner.
J.M. Smucker CMO Geoff Tanner.

The J.M. Smucker Company’s CMO has said some of the brands it houses have "no basis weighing in" on the outcry sparked by George Floyd’s death. 

But Geoff Tanner stressed that his brands can play a role by taking a strong leadership stance on equality behind-the-scenes, and the industry as a whole must step up.

"My hope and everyone’s hope is that, when we look back, we can say action came out of it," said the CMO as part of a panel discussion about creativity at Campaign Connect, a two-day, global virtual event unpacking the future of advertising in a post-pandemic world. 

"As a company, you say, ‘What is my role and obligation with regards to what’s playing out?’ And the way that we tackled that was to say that as a company, what is going on out there right now is completely at odds with what we believe as an organization of employees."

Tanner said the company upped its commitment to diversity and inclusion and made a donation last week. 

"That was us acting as an organization," he continued. "Where it gets a little more tricky is we’re a house of brands, and should any of our brands enter the conversation, take a stance on it?"

Publicly, brands within the company’s portfolio took different approaches to what’s happening. Dunkin’, for example, joined the scores of organizations that posted a black square on Instagram as part of #BlackOutTuesday and included some words from CEO Dave Hoffmann.

"The world needs us to practice empathy, inclusivity, respect and kindness. At Dunkin’ Brands, we oppose racism, hatred and injustice in all its forms and are committed to building greater unity in our own small, yet powerful way," he said. "Together, we will push harder to listen, to treat everyone with kindness, to be a place of comfort for our guests, and to serve all communities and people in ways that will make a difference."

But there was silence from other parts of the company, like Smucker's. 

"Where we landed was that if this is something the brand has spoken about for a while and it’s core to who the brand is, then absolutely," said Tanner. "But if it’s not, then it’s completely inauthentic and you just shouldn’t do it." 

"So we do have many brands which just have no basis to be weighing in with messaging because it’s just not core to who they are and it’s not authentic. But, as we think about the actions of us as an organization, where those brands can play a role is in taking a leadership stance on things like diversity and inclusion in advertising, director selection and so on."

Tanner sits on the board of See Her, which has worked to advance gender inclusion in advertising. 

"We have to do something similar like that as an industry when it comes, more broadly, to diversity and inclusion and racial injustice," he added, "It’s a very complicated space as you try to figure out how to respond, because there’s absolutely some things you should do and there are many things you should absolutely not do."

Discover the whole conversation with The J.M. Smucker Company, Facebook and JOAN Creative as well as much more content at Campaign Connect.

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