Global Brands Revamping In Light Of Anti-Racism Protests

Global Brands Revamping In Light Of Anti-Racism Protests

After a wave of protests following George Floyd’s death, global brands are rebranding age-old products which once signified racism and also showing their support towards the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Crux of the Matter

Evolving Names, Logos & Tag Lines
The past few weeks have seen an international wave of apologies and product removals. A number of consumer-goods companies are rebranding old trademarks following weeks of anti-racism protests in the U.S.

For decades, Indian advertisers have propagated an association between skin fairness with career success and social status. Unilever patented Fair & Lovely in 1971 after patenting niacinamide, a melanin suppressor which is the cream’s main active ingredient. Melanin is the natural skin pigment. To revamp its identity, Unilever announced to drop the word fair. Fair & Lovely has an average sales of over ₹3,400 crores/year in India

If we have to make our brands contemporary then we have to keep innovating and renovating them.

Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman Hindustan Unilever

After an Indian-American woman named Hetal Lakhani launched a campaign against the very popular website, they announced the removal of its skin-tone search filter option which allowed users to search for those with fair or dark complexions.

Johnson & Johnson after being accused of systemic racism they have announced to take all skin-lightening products like Neutrogena Fine Fairness off their shelves. Other brands like Loreal are also now being criticised for their products.

Brands know that it is bad business to be antagonizing large segments of vocal consumers who have the power to sway public opinion for or against them.

Karthik Srinivasan, Indian Branding & Communications consultant

Quaker Oats is changing the name of its 130-year old Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup whose brand logo features an African-American woman named after a character in 19th-century minstrel shows and is rooted in a stereotype of a friendly black woman working as a servant or nanny for a white family. 

Uncle Ben’s owned by Mars Food and Mrs. Butterworth syrup owned by ConAgra Brands have announced to revamp and evolve the brand’s packaging in response to ongoing protests against racism. Cream of Wheat owned by B&G Foods Inc. also will review its current packaging which depicts a character named Rastus, a derogatory term for Black men.

Nestlé has decided to review its portfolio of more than 2,000 brands and 25,000 products to ‘identify any required changes to our use of imagery or language.’ It will rename its Red Skins, Chicos, and Beso de Negra products.

More Efforts by Brands To #BlackLivesMatter
Nike has inverted the brand’s tagline to ‘Don’t do it’ and also released a powerful video encouraging people to resolve the issue of institutionalised racism. Google added a message of support to the BLM along with a black ribbon. Spotify created a silent playlist that lasted for 8mins 46seconds, the time for which George Floyd was choked by the American policeman. Nickelodeon went off-air for 8:46 minutes.

Amazon & Netflix celebrated the role of black artists, writers, and producers by putting out messages on their social media handles. Doritos gave Black artists major outdoor ad space to promote their messages as part of new investment in the #AmplifyBlackVoices effort. It also aired a 30-second spot, “Do You Hear Us Now?”

Twitter changed its profile picture to a black version of its logo and also real Tweets from Black users around the world were transformed into OOH boards in U.S. cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Louisville, Minneapolis, New York, Oakland and Philadelphia where major protests occurred.

Mississippi Removes Confederate Emblem
Mississippi House and Senate passed a bill on June 27 to remove the Confederate emblem from their flag which was originally used by the slave-owning states that lost the US Civil War and was seen as a racist symbol. It was the only remaining US state flag to feature the Confederate emblem and the recent protests reignited a debate over its use.

Mississippi was the only remaining US state flag to feature the Confederate emblem which was originally used by the slave-owning states that lost the US Civil War and the recent protests reignited a debate over its use. On June 27, Mississippi House and Senate passed a bill to remove the Confederate emblem from their flag which was seen as a racist symbol.

  • Lakmé is named after the French form of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. It was started in 1952 famously because then PM Jawaharlal Nehru was concerned that Indian women were spending precious foreign exchange on beauty products and personally requested JRD Tata to manufacture them in India.
  • Unilever patented the brand Fair & Lovely in 1971 after the patenting of niacinamide, a melanin suppressor,[1] which is the cream’s main active ingredient. Melanin is the natural skin pigment that gives colour to the skin.
  • 8:46 is a 2020 performance special by American comedian Dave Chappelle about violence against African-Americans. The special was released via YouTube on June 12, 2020. The performance is not a traditional stand-up comedy special, as it was recorded at a private outdoor venue due to the Covid-19 pandemic in Ohio and features long stretches without humor.

Top Brands Pull Out of Facebook Ads

Top Brands Pull Out of Facebook Ads

Growing concerns over the rampant spread of false information and hate speech on Facebook has started the #StopHateForProfit campaign prompting hundreds of advertisers to stop spending on the platform resulting in $56 billion loss of market value in a single day.

Crux of the Matter

#StopHateForProfit Campaign
After the death of George Floyd and subsequent anti-racism protests, a coalition of civil rights groups namely Color of Change, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Sleeping Giants, Free Press, Anti-Defamation League, and Common Sense Media accused Facebook of not taking efforts to control the spread of racist content online.

The coalition urged businesses to pull their ads from Facebook and Instagram and this movement is now widely known as the ‘Stop Hate For Profit’ campaign. This campaign is now not limited only to the US but also is spreading globally as nearly 160+ companies have decided to not advertise on Facebook for the next 30 days.

99% of Facebook’s revenue is generated from its 8 million advertisers. Though many of them are small companies, there are several big corporations like Unilever Group & Verizon, which alone spends nearly $42 million & $2 million respectively yearly on Facebook ads, that have halted advertising. Some also have stopped ad-spends on Twitter and other social media sites.

Some major brands who have paused advertising on Facebook include CocaCola, PepsiCo, The North Face, Starbucks, Unilever Group, Honda Motor Co, Ben & Jerry’s, Magnolia Pictures, The Hershey Company, REI, and Verizon.

We’re pausing our advertising until Facebook can create an acceptable solution that makes us comfortable and is consistent with what we’ve done with YouTube and other partners.

John Nitti, Chief Media Officer Verizon

After the announcement by giants like Unilever and Verizon, the shares of Facebook dropped by 8.3% along with Mark Zuckerberg losing $7.2 billion of his net worth. Even in the past Facebook has faced backlashes over its handling of user data but its revenue was never seriously impacted by any of the protests. Facebook has lost nearly $56 billion in revenues.

The advertisers are unhappy with Facebook’s laissez-faire attitude towards posts from US President Trump. The organisers of the 2020 US presidential election fear that a highly polarised audience on social media could increase the potential for spreading misinformation and discriminatory content.

Unilever in India has dropped the word ‘fair’ from its popular skin-lightening product called Fair and Lovely. The outrage over the death of Floyd has led to an unprecedented reaction from corporations around the world.

Response by Facebook
Facebook conducted a conference call with over 200 of its advertisers and informed that they were working towards addressing the ‘trust deficit‘. The founder Mark Zuckerberg announced changes in content moderation policy via a live stream.

Facebook will now necessarily not take down posts that may violate its policies, but will instead begin to label them. The posts that ‘may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote ‘will be taken down regardless of who has shared it or whether it is newsworthy. It will also label political speech that violates its rules and take measures to prevent voter suppression and protect minorities from abuse.

I am committed to making sure Facebook remains a place where people can use their voice to discuss important issues. But I also stand against hate or anything that incites violence or suppresses voting, and we’re committed to removing that content, no matter where it comes from.

Mark Zuckerberg, Founder Facebook
  • Facebook’s main color is blue because Zuckerberg has red-green color blindness. In an interview, he said that “blue is the richest color for me — I can see all of blue.”
  • In finance, FAANG is an acronym that refers to the stocks of five prominent American technology companies: Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Alphabet (Google). The term was coined by Jim Cramer, the television host of CNBC’s Mad Money.
  • Facebook users in the U.S. will have the option to “turn off” all political advertising on the platform. The new feature will give users more control over what they see — at least for users who decide to flip the new setting to “off.”

Russia Holds Trilateral Meet With India And China

Russia Holds Trilateral Meet With India And China

While hosting a meeting with India and China, Russia witnessed prominent guests for its ‘special day’ and enhanced relations with the Indian state.

Crux of the Matter

RIC Meet
RIC meet, which is a trilateral meeting between Russia, India, and China, took place on 23rd June through video conferencing. The meeting occurred between the Ministers of External Affairs of the respective nations. No discussion on bilateral issues like the recent border clashes between India and China occurred, with the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov declaring no “need” of mediation.

I don’t think India and China need any help from outside. I don’t think they need to be helped, especially when it comes to country issues. They can solve them on their own… [this means recent events.]

Sergei Lavrov, Foreign Minister, Russia

Indian Contribution And Demands
Dr. S Jaishankar, the Minister of External Affairs of India, raised issues like the structure of the UN and called for an increased adherence to the international laws.

Respecting international law, recognizing the legitimate interests of partners, supporting multilateralism and promoting common good is the only way of building a durable world order.

Dr S Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs, India

Dr. Jaishankar also highlighted the contribution of India in international matters and called for a revision in the UN structure.

India made a significant contribution [to achieve victory over Nazism and Fascism], with 2.3 million of its citizens under arms and 14 million more participating in war production. Indian blood was shed at the battlefields of the world, from Tobruk, El Alamein and Montecassino, to Singapore, Kohima and Borneo.

We helped keep key supply lines open to both your countries, one through the Persian corridor and the other over the Himalayan hump. If Indian personnel were conferred the Order of the Red Star, the medical mission led by Dr Kotnis was a legend in China. So tomorrow, when our military contingent marches through the Red Square, it would be an affirmation of the difference that we made.

Dr S Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs, India

Victory Day Parade
On 9th May, the Moscow Victory Day Parade is taken out every year. The event commemorates the victory of the Allies over the Axis Forces in World War II. The date was chosen as Germany surrendered on 9 May 1945.

In 2020, the parade was delayed to 24 June owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. It marked a special occasion for India as its contingent of 75 members from its 3 armed forces took part in the parade.

Defence Meet
Rajnath Singh, the Defence Minister of India, attended the parade as a high-profile guest as a part of his 3-day visit to “strengthen the longstanding special and privileged strategic partnership between India and Russia”.

In the meeting, Rajnath Singh also discussed the provision of weapons with Russia, which promised the delivery of S-400 Missile Systems within 2-3 months while “speeding up” the delivery to the possible extent.

Russian Impact In Indian Conflicts
In the early 1960s, Russia offered MiG-21 jets to India to enhance security. However, it stopped the supply in 1962 at the time of the Indo-China war. The situation changed again in 1971 when Russia supported India in the Indo-Pak war by countering the US fleets supporting Pakistan.

In 2019, Russia diverged from Pakistan and China regarding the Kashmir issue. In its statement, Russia declared the removal of article 370 as an “internal matter” of India.

  • India is the second-largest market for the Russian defence industry. In 2017, approximately 68% of the Indian Military’s hardware import came from Russia, making Russia the chief supplier of defence equipment.
  • The Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation (FCT) is a twenty-year strategic treaty that was signed by the leaders of the two international powers, Jiang Zemin and Vladimir Putin, on July 16, 2001. The treaty outlines the broad strokes which are to serve as a basis for peaceful relations, economic cooperation, as well as diplomatic and geopolitical reliance.
  • On November 23, 2010, at a meeting of the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, it was announced that Russia and China have decided to use their own national currencies for bilateral trade, instead of the U.S. dollar. The move was aimed to further improve the relations between Beijing and Moscow and to protect their domestic economies during the financial crisis of 2007–2008.

Hacking Attacks: The Next Gen Warfare

Hacking Attacks: The Next Gen Warfare

As per reports by Cyber Intelligence firm Cyfirma, there are 10-day old conversations on Dark Web forums regarding notorious China based groups – Gothic and Stone Panda, making India the next target of hacking attacks. How far will have they gone in their cyber-warfare plans and what is China’s next move internationally?

Crux of the Matter

What Lurks Behind The Dark Web?
The dark web is part of the World Wide Web content that is not indexed by regular Search engines and requires specific software and configurations as authorization of access. Thus, it can be an easy hideout for dangerous underground communities such as pornography, drugs, hiring hitmen, etc.

Cyber-attacks form a core component of 5th Generation Warfare: propaganda and information war.

China Cooking Revenge Plans?
Several government agencies, media houses, pharmaceutical companies, telecom operators, and a large tyre company in India are on the bull’s eye of a cyberattack by Chinese hacker groups. Their specific targets seemed three central government ministries – Foreign Affairs, Defence, Information and Broadcasting.

Notorius Plans?
This angry plan comes after a violent face-off between India and China earlier this week, a first in 45 years. Twenty Indian and around forty-five Chinese soldiers lost their lives in the clash and others were injured.

Mandarin and Cantonese hacker forums started talking about teaching a lesson to India, pointedly the media houses that have been critical of the Chinese army. Meanwhile, on the Indian front, a boycott China movement has taken pace, which urges consumers to stop buying products made and exported by China.

40,000 Attacks In Just 5 Days?
Maharashtra police’s cyber wing collected information about more than 40,000 hacking attempts, on India’s Information Technology infrastructure and banking sector, in just a matter of five days from 18-23 June. Most of them originated from the Chengdu area in China.

What Are The Two Evil Pandas?
Gothic Panda and Stone Panda came out as the two prominent groups behind such hacking plans, that have a direct affiliation to the People’s Liberation Army. Gothic Panda is an expert in targetting strategic sectors like defense, aerospace, telecom, transportation, manufacturing, construction, and engineering. Stone Panda has a past track record of carrying out secret trade theft and stealing supply chain information. 

Virtual Torment
Both groups actively involve themselves in targeting organizations in countries around the world including India, Japan, the US, Canada, Brazil and Australia. The most common attacks ranging from defacing websites by using a weakness in web applications to data exfiltration using specialized malware. 

Then there can be a denial of service and impersonating companies’ websites and launching malicious phishing campaigns, on top of it. The US and other western countries have long accused China of aggressive espionage, an act of spying and obtaining secret or confidential information, without the permission of the holder of the information.

‘Anonymous’ Online Activists In US
In light of #BlackLivesMatter movement that started in the US after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, hacker group Anonymous’ accounts have pledged their support to protestors against police brutality and racism.

The tweets and Facebook posts in which they highlighted their support, have been seen millions of times, and are repeatedly shared on social media platforms.

Covid-19 Themed Phishing Plans
There were reports of a Covid-19 themed phishing campaign by North Korean state hackers, which was predicted to target six nations including India, Singapore, South Korea, Japan the UK, and the US on June 21.

The attack was a part of the Lazarus Group’s plan against 50 lakh individuals and businesses, including small and large enterprises.

  • A black hat hacker is a hacker who violates computer security for personal gain or maliciousness. The black hat/white hat terminology originates in the Western genre of popular American culture, in which black and white hats denote villainous and heroic cowboys respectively.
  • Activities of playful cleverness can be said to have “hack value” and therefore the term “hacks” came about, with early examples including pranks at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) done by students to demonstrate their technical aptitude and cleverness. Therefore, the hacker culture originally emerged in academia in the 1960s around the MIT.
  • Anonymous is a decentralized international activist/hacktivist movement that is widely known for its various cyber attacks against several governments, government institutions and government agencies, corporations, and the Church of Scientology. The name Anonymous itself is inspired by the perceived anonymity under which users post images and comments on the Internet.

Curious Case of Wirecard Fraud

Curious Case of Wirecard Fraud

Wirecard, a German payment processing company, stated that €2 billion from its books were non-existent. The fraud amount in Indian rupees is to the tune of more than ₹15,000 crores and when compared to other infamous scams of India like the Vijay Mallya, PNB and Nirav Modi, or even Rana Kapoor, Wirecard turns out to be clear winner. With what could be the fraud of the year, let’s find out how an entity based in a developed financial market carried out this fraud.

Crux of the Matter

Wirecard was established in 1999 as a payment processing industry in Germany. To expand its business, Wirecard wanted a license to issue prepaid bank cards in the Hong Kong region. But getting a license proved to be a tough nut for the company as the Hong Kong Monetary Authority demanded significant business revenue to consider the application. As the company didn’t have enough revenue, its Asia-pacific team was set on a task to convince regulators at the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

Inflating Books & Incoming Probe
To acquire the license, Wirecard manipulated its accounts. The Parent company in Germany pumped money through opaque transactions to show that these funds are being paid by external customers. To put it simply, money flew from Germany to Asia and then back to Germany, completing a whole circle and indicating that the transactions were made by third parties. By doing so, accounts will show the Asian wing’s performance up to par.

Financial Times (FT) was investigating the matter and had sent some information to the compliance staff of Wirecard in 2019. The company’s compliance staff found that the claims of whistleblowers were credible and launched an investigation with the codename: project Tiger. Rajah & Tann (R&T), a Singapore based company wrote a 30-page report accusing Wirecard’s Asian wing of forgery, cheating, criminal breach of trust, corruption, money laundering, etc.

First Investigation Closed
To save the company’s tarnished image after this report got published, the parent company in Germany remained defiant and sued FT. Wirecard CEO Markus Braun rebuked the investigative stories, saying “there are personal animosities between employees involved”. FT got an order to stop the investigation and somehow this accounting deviance was normalized.

Relentless FT
FT, on the other hand, continued its investigation, albeit on a slightly different matter. While researching, they found that accounts with no physical presence were in business with Wirecard. Transfers were processing payments from gambling and adult websites. Moreover, such fake transfers accounted for nearly half of sales in 2018. FT wrote about it and the report went live. When Germany’s financial regulator BaFin should have intervened in the matter, it responded very oppositely and sued FT reporters including lead investigative journalist McCrum. BaFin had its own agenda i.e. to protect Germany’s pride as Wirecard is among the top 30 companies in terms of valuation listed on the Germand stock exchange DAX.

Chickens Come Home To Roost
Recently, auditor KPMG said it could not corroborate suspected accounts as it had no access to several documents. It announced missing €2 bn. And after 3 days of the auditor’s
announcement, the company said that cash never existed. CEO Markus Baum was arrested.

  • Wirecard was one of Germany’s Top 30 most valuable companies on the German stock market (DAX) and has been ranked in the “Top 100 Most Innovative Growth Companies in the World” by Forbes Magazine.
  • On 30 January 2019, Wirecard shares plunged after the Financial Times reported that a senior executive was suspected of falsification of accounts and money laundering in the company’s Asia-Pacific operations. Wirecard issued a statement calling the report “false, inaccurate, misleading and defamatory.” Wirecard also announced a lawsuit against the Financial Times for “unethical reporting” and a lawsuit for market manipulation.
  • Enron Corporation was an American energy, commodities, and services company based in Houston, Texas. At the end of 2001, it was revealed that Enron’s reported financial condition was sustained by an institutionalized, systemic, and creatively planned accounting fraud, known since as the Enron scandal.