4 Questions To Help Brands Read The Room

Dear Gap,

It’s not that hard. Before you tweet about bringing people together, ask yourself the Four Critical Questions:

1. Is this our area of expertise?

2. Do people care what we have to say about this?

3. Do we have something new and useful to add?

4. And, Is there a chance we’re going to come off arrogant, self-serving and tone-deaf?

And then -- stick with me, because this is the important bit -- if the answer to any of the first three questions is no, or if the answer to the last question is yes…

Don’t launch your campaign.

Don’t tweet.

Remember when Starbucks tried to get us to talk to our baristas about race?

Not their area of expertise. Nobody wanted to hear from them about it. Nothing new and useful to add. And, yep, arrogant, self-serving and tone-deaf.

Had they asked themselves the Four Questions, they would have known to pull the plug before going live.



Let’s come back to the present day. As I write this, we still don’t know who’s won the election: this polarizing, demonizing, agonizing, election. We are fearful. We are angry. We are exhausted.

We also know that, whatever the outcome of the election, it is only one step in a long journey. That we will need to take a moment, take a breath, regroup, and go back out into the arena: not to fight against people, but to fight for ideas, for our values, for a more perfect union.

Against this backdrop, Gap, let me ask you:

Is this your area of expertise?

Do people care what you have to say about this?

Do you have something new and useful to add?

And is there a chance you’re going to come off as arrogant, self-serving and tone-deaf?

Those Four Questions would have made it patently obvious to you that your tweet depicting a half-red, half-blue hoodie, with the message, “The one thing we know, is that together, we can move forward” (blue heart emoji, red heart emoji) should have stayed in the drafts folder.

Look, I get it. You want to connect. You want to be relevant. The election is all anyone’s talking about, and all you can think about. It’s hard to come up with copy about anything other than the thing that’s occupying all your waking thoughts.

That’s why you need the Four Questions. When you’re so deep in it that it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, let the Four Questions guide you.

Gap, I really have to apologize. I realize I should have shared the Four Questions with you last week, and now it’s a bit too late.

But it’s not too late for the next time. And it’s not too late for other companies to learn this lesson.

Take the Four Questions. Print them out and tape them to your monitor. And before you hit send on that next tweet, give them a quick run-through.

They may just save you a bit of heartache.

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