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Companies should explicitly brand themselves as liberal, NYU’s Scott Galloway says

On the latest Recode Decode, Galloway says being seen as politically conservative worked in the ’80s, but now, companies and executives should be “neon blue.”

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Google’s Larry Page, Facebook CFO Sheryl Sandberg, VP Mike Pence and President Donald Trump sitting at a table Drew Angerer / Getty

L2 founder and NYU professor Scott Galloway likes to break companies down into individual concepts like “God” (Google) or “frat rock” (Kalanick-era Uber). But he says one prevailing wind is blowing through all the big tech companies now: Liberal politics.

“In the ’80s, I think you wanted to come across, as a CEO, as a conservative because conservatives were seen as more steadfast, more responsible, and Democrats were seen as more reactionary and not economically responsible,” Galloway said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “The right political posture for a company-as-a-person was to be kinda subtly conservative. The right political posture now, hands down, is to be increasingly not subtle, but overtly and explicitly progressive.”

He argued that this political branding helps companies connect with their workers, who largely live in “neon blue regions.” As more women and people of color join the workforce and start climbing the ranks, “it’s stupid” for businesses to not be seen as welcoming to that change, he said.

However, it also makes them seem friendlier and less dangerous in the broader business world.

“I don’t think it’s any accident that Facebook spends a lot of time and energy helping Sheryl [Sandberg] facilitate this conversation around ‘leaning in,’” Galloway said. “If she was fervently pro-life, I don’t think they would be flying her to Cannes to speak to advertising executives, because conservatives are seen as mean and threatening.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Of course, Silicon Valley currently finds itself divided over a contentious political issue, that of politics inside corporate walls, triggered by the now-infamous “Google memo.” Galloway said Google shouldn’t waste time tolerating speech that damages its own value as a business.

“At the end of the day, in media, you have an obligation to pursue the truth and have these conversations internally, and be open about them,” he said. “In academia, we have an obligation to pursue the truth and have difficult conversations. Google is there to sell more water purifiers.”

“While it’s probably because they’re so powerful — [it’s] important that we have that discussion about the service itself — I don’t think they have an obligation to internally promote debates publicly that are going to make them look bad and put the CEO in a very difficult position,” he added. “It’s nice, it's theoretically a nice thing, but think they’re primarily there to increase shareholder value, build economic security and create a middle class.”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge's Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts— and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara.

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