At PACO we like to say that diversity is in our DNA; being inclusive is literally the reason we exist. So it’s been both inspiring and gut-wrenching to see our Black brothers and sisters demand to be fully recognized as part of a society that has at various times brutally, casually, and unconsciously refused to accept them as equals. And it’s been thrilling to see responses that make this time seem different – that this time, finally, America is genuinely listening to them.
That’s not to say all is right with the world; there’s still plenty of resistance, opportunism, and simple tone-deafness (dear Adweek: you may not want to paywall a piece headlined “600 Black Advertising Professionals Demand Meaningful Action from Leadership”…just sayin’). But a lot of brands and other organizations are going beyond lip service and taking meaningful action. Here are a couple that stand out.
It should surprise nobody to see Ben & Jerry’s taking a strong stand in support of Black Lives Matter – police organizations boycotted the ice cream maker back in 2016 for their outspoken support of the movement. They renewed their commitment on June 3rd by publishing “We Must Dismantle White Supremacy: Silence Is Not an Option” on their website. And while many brands would have stopped there (and probably used less uncompromising language) they continued with four specific points in support of their stance. It’s easy to make bland statements of support. Specifics tell your customers that you’re not afraid to hold people accountable – and to be held accountable yourself.
If Ben & Jerry’s statement is expected, Bain Capital’s new seven point commitment to support racial and social equality might not be. After all, private equity firms aren’t known as bastions of progressivism. Still, their list includes not only concrete efforts to embed equality in corporate culture by adding racial and social equity as the fourth pillar of their social impact practice and making Juneteenth a mandatory day of learning and reflection, but also pledges substantial resources in the form of $100 million to pro-bono support over the next five years. Making specific pledges shows they’re willing to be held accountable. That’s a welcome sign of commitment.
Another brand worth recognizing is Band-Aid, for starting bandage lines in black and brown skin tones. Yes, it took 99 years for them to do it. But you know what’s worse than being late? Never showing up. Shifting American society from a default of whiteness requires all kinds of changes. Simply acknowledging that there is a vast array of flesh tones will help.
Finally, let’s take a look at Disney. The parent company pledged millions in support of the NAACP and other nonprofits dedicated to racial equity, and Lucasfilm was unequivocal in its support of John Boyega’s passionate speeches on the topic. Disney had also been advertising on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, but rather than undermine their position and discredit their brand, the House of Mouse instructed their media buyers to pull the ads as his opposition to the movement became clear.
This is obviously far from an exhaustive list of brands showing meaningful support, but the examples demonstrate some common themes. What lessons can marketers take from them?
Being an ally in difficult times is a hard thing that can put your brand in uncomfortable positions. But it matters. And it’s worth doing right. By making ourselves accountable to concrete and meaningful commitments, we help make our society a better and more inclusive place.