Robinhood’s Poor Decision Will Haunt the Brand Forever

The investment app made a costly mistake by not explaining why

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If you’ve been online this week, you’ve probably witnessed what’s occurring in the stock market and on Reddit’s WallStreetBets subreddit. And if you’ve been online today, you probably saw that Robinhood, the app notoriously used by retail investors, announced it is “restricting transactions for certain securities to position closing only, including $AMC and $GME.” 

The Streisand effect is “a social phenomenon that occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of further publicizing that information, often via the Internet.”

Regardless of what factors impacted this decision, one thing is clear: This hasty decision will follow the Robinhood brand forever. 

In addition to the negative brand sentiment, the outrage as a result of this decision is no longer confined to those interested or watching the market, but now front and center everywhere as millions come out of the woodwork to point out how hypocritical and contradictory this decision was in a free market.

For most retail investors on the app, Robinhood lost the trust of its user base in a matter of seconds and dug a deep grave for itself. And from a brand perspective, it’s going to prove an almost impossible hole to dig out of. 

Leadership at the top responsible for making decisions like this must do a better job at understanding what this means for the brand’s image. Time and time again, we see brands crucified online for not understanding the full impact of their decisions and how that translates in the long term, particularly online.

All too often, we watch leadership throw unexpected or off-brand announcements to the social media manager without consideration or acknowledgment of the full scope of potential fallout. And many times, social media managers will take the full brunt of anger while fielding through an almost endless stream of negative feedback. 

One thing that sticks out about Robinhood’s announcement is the failure to explain the intricate factors justifying why. “We continuously monitor the markets and make changes where necessary. In light of recent volatility, we are restricting transactions for certain securities to position closing only,” read the statement. It fails to give insight or understanding as to why the decision was made and why they believe it was logically justified.

It fuels the “men in suits” mantra, a mainstream narrative that alludes to how powerful people on Wall Street are the ones actually manipulating, bullying and controlling the market without ethical checks and balances.

But it’s not all bad. 

Investment social platform Public announced a similar decision, but approached it with much more transparency and in a way its users could understand.

The announcement is the same, but with drastically different sentiment and bravado. It becomes obvious Public has a better, more empathetic approach when engaging their audience. They even publicly stated how they disagree with the decision and promised transparent updates as they receive them.

Public’s announcement won’t come close to being in the spotlight as much as Robinhood’s. Not because they don’t have the same user size, but instead due to the strategy of thoughtfulness, understanding and transparency reflected in the way it was rolled out.

In the digital realm, it’s understandable why users who have nowhere else to turn will take to social media to air their grievances. That’s why its mission critical for everyone in an organization—from the bottom and all the way to the top—to understand the importance of saying it the right way.