How brands are adding their voices to #BlackLivesMatter
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In the wake of the death of George Floyd, brands across the world have moved to speak out against racism and police brutality.
Until now, diversity and equality have been at the top table of corporate debate, but this is the first time we’re seeing swathes of companies responding directly to the issue of racism, in one co-ordinated movement.
Where some have made financial commitments, others have used their platforms to expressly state their abhorrence of racial prejudice. And while some have got the approach exactly right, we are seeing as many misses from leading brands who really should know better. The clear learning is this: use #BlackLivesMatter as a PR mechanic at your peril.
Here’s a round-up of how some of the world’s leading brands have shown their support for the #BlackLivesMatter cause:
NIKE shared a simple monochromatic text-led film, entitled: ‘For Once, Don’t Do It’, which asks viewers to stop denying the scale of the problem. It ends with an invitation: “Let’s all be part of the change.” NIKE has previously been more involved in the racism conversation than many brands, notably with its 2018 campaign featuring NFL star-turned social activist Colin Kaepernick.
Twitter updated its profile picture to a black version of its logo, also amending its bio to read: “#BlackLivesMatter”. Echoing the flooding of Instagram feeds with black squares, marking the controversial #BlackOutTuesday, Twitter added its voice to the conversation, with a black square showing behind its profile image.
The video streaming platform added some financial ballast to its position, tweeting that: “We stand in solidarity against racism and violence. When members of our community hurt, we all hurt. We’re pledging $1M in support of efforts to address social injustice.”
BEN AND JERRY’S
The ice cream brand put out an emotional statement titled “Silence is NOT an option.” Underlining the “urgent need to take concrete steps to dismantle white supremacy in all its forms,” it referred back to its offer of support to the Black Lives Matter movement in 2016, highlighting the brand’s history of fighting for social justice.
Colour and design brand Pantone shared its response to the movement on social media, in a format familiar to anyone who has come across its work. Using its trademark swatch, shown in brown and labelled, “Pantone stands with the black community,” it declared that the company “stands proudly with our global design community, our associates, our friends and our families, in the crucial fight against inequality and injustice.” While the response feels in keeping with the Pantone brand, the posts have attracted a level of question from consumers around the specific action it’s taking to combat racism.
L’Oréal found itself accused of hypocrisy for posting a message to Instagram, stating that “speaking out is worth it,” in a play on its usual “Because you’re worth it” strapline. Model Munroe Bergdorf responded with her experience of being fired by the brand after she called out racism online in 2017 and fans came quickly to her defence. The beauty brand has been further criticised for failing to respond to the fallout, with a resulting #IStandWithMunroe hashtag trending on social media.
Brands and corporates are being called on to do more than virtue signal by being seen to say the right thing. As we’re advising our clients, customers want to see meaningful action, brands voting with their feet and with their behaviour. They want to see responses that feel honest and justifiable – not disingenuous bandwagon-hopping or performative social media-posting.
Sincere corporate responses could take the form of anything from financial donations, using their platforms to educate and call out racism, a commitment to more workforce diversity, or dedicating colleague time to supporting community projects. What’s crucial is that companies commit to meaningful, lasting change, however it might look.
And as consumers and activists have taken to social media to express, posting a black square on Instagram and considering your work done simply won’t cut it.
WONDERING WHAT YOU CAN DO?
Time Out has created this guide detailing the ways in which you can support Black Lives Matter, wherever you’re based.
Tool of the week
The new 12-week programme features courses on everything from PR to advertising, art direction to media planning. Classes will be delivered by senior-level advertising professionals drawn from the Reddit community, in a move to utilise the expertise of those who have already established themselves on the platform.
Each class consists of a half hour lecture, followed by 15 minutes of discussion and actionable takeaways to help students put their learning into practice.
And if it proves popular, we could expect to see the concept rolled out across other disciplines. Perhaps it’s the beginning of a ‘University of Reddit’.
Stay tuned to see how this develops.
This week’s tip comes from Head of Innovation, Anna Younger.
As it’s looking like we won’t be able to get an in-person culture fix for a while yet, podcasts are serving as my temporary stand-in.
One in particular – Nothing Concrete – has been keeping my inspiration levels up lately. It’s run by the Barbican, and sees presenters meeting artists and performers who are passionate about changing the world.
The podcast houses a four-part series named ‘the Art of Change,’ which features Stephen Fry in conversation with journalist Chris Guness speaking about Beethoven’s Heiligenstadt Testament and exploring the link between genius and mental health.
My favourite quote is from episode three: “I got this idea that the secret to life could be found in books and art”.
You can read, watch and listen to more from the Barbican here.