Why Brands Need to Stop Capitalising on Women’s Drama for Content

If you’re well versed in internet drama and pop culture, you will have watched the alleged feud between Selena Gomez and Hailey Bieber unfold the past few months. It’s no secret that there’s been an ongoing conflict throughout the years between their fans, but the controversy escalated when Selena fans argued that Hailey has been throwing shade about Selena online. And it wasn’t just social media users and celebrities weighing in on the conversation, brands also took the opportunity to get into the action and take sides. Here to take you through the witch-hunt of Hailey Bieber is Account Executive, Beth. 

Let’s dive right in. Duolingo was quick to jump into the conversation by posting a TikTok with text that read “I’m not saying she deserved it, but God’s timing is always right”, accompanied with photos of Hailey and Selena over the years. For context, the text references a now-deleted TikTok, where Hailey, Kendall Jenner and Justine Skye lip-synced the viral audio as an alleged dig against Selena Gomez. This isn’t the first time they have posted controversial content surrounding women who are being targeted online. 

Next up is Facetune. The photo-editing app posted a TikTok back in February using the apps ‘vanish tool’ to remove Hailey from a photo with Selena, with the caption, “For legal reasons not choosing sides but”. You can work that one out for yourself. The comments were filled with people praising the brand for shading Hailey.

There’s been countless other brands involved from Victoria Secret employees, Whataburger, Hulu, Buzzfeed, to SunnyD. TikTok has definitely fueled this hate campaign against Hailey – the obsession with ganging up against women is prevalent. With the algorithm favouring content with potential to go viral and anything that talks about trending topics, brands have fed into the mob mentality on the app. But there’s a line that has been crossed and there’s dangers of brands taking on harmful personalities, and misogynistic content being created for virality and clicks. With brands constantly jumping on the latest trends, they forget that these are real people, not characters in a TV show. 

Now this is nothing new, social media has been quick to jump on women in the past. During the Amber Heard vs Johnny Depp trial last year, Duolingo came under fire for a ‘joke’ comment left about Amber on a TikTok posted by NBC News. In the video Amber said, “You can look either of us up online and figure out who’s being abused”. To which, Duolingo commented, “Yall think Amber watches TikTok?”. Is it in bad taste that a language learning app would capitalise on a legal case for traction online? 

You may be wondering how this has impacted Selena and Hailey. They both have their own beauty brands, Selena with Rare Beauty and Hailey with Rhode. Where Selena has gained over 10 million followers; Hailey has lost over a million. It’s evident that public perception of them has shifted – but only time will tell how this will directly impact their brands.

Our final thoughts? In the age of reactive and trend-led content, it’s easy to be swept away without thinking critically first. Brand marketers need to be mindful before jumping in on trending conversations to avoid a brand faux pas. You need to ask yourself if this content is relevant and/or appropriate. And as for pitting women against each other – we think it’s time we left that attitude in the early 00s.

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