What Marketers Can Learn From Their Wins + Mistakes
Covid-19 restrictions began to lift, and businesses breathed a sigh of relief at the idea of opening again. And then... brands were thrust back into the chaos of having to figure out how to find their voice in support of their own and despite potential differing customer beliefs, in the midst of protests and riots across the country.
As brands and celebrities begin to navigate the events impacting the world, some have stayed silent out of fear of being alienated by their customers and fans. Others have used their platforms to speak up and stand up in support of Black Lives Matter, and people are taking notice. Today, consumers - especially Gen Z'ers and Millennials, have expectations from those they buy from to serve as extensions of their own personal values and beliefs. In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares insight for brand marketers to learn from what has worked, or failed, in how celebrities and brands have supported the Black Lives Matter Movement.
What Is Black Lives Matter?
The “Black Lives Matter” movement was founded in 2013 and started as a social media hashtag before actually becoming a protest movement. As stated on their website: #BlackLivesMatter is a global organization in the US, UK and Canada whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.
The movement began as a call to action in response to violence and anti-Black racism. Initially sparked by the death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of a neighborhood-watch volunteer in Florida in 2012, it coalesced two years later amid demonstrations over the death of Ferguson's 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by a white police officer. The protests have since then radicalized a new generation of activists.
Brands Speaking Out
Marketing has now become a minefield of carefully worded letters and public statements addressing racial bigotry and injustice. Amid the nationwide explosion of protests, companies and brands have quite the task in trying to figure out how to respond and support, while also not offending or coming off as tone-deaf. For some, it's not an issue that is more important than losing customers. For others, it is matter of walking a careful tightrope in trying to avoid ruffling feathers, while still showing support.
For one company that has had its own recent struggles with allegations of unjust treatment of employees during Covid-19, the decision appears to have been easily made. Despite recent negative PR for selling controversial facial recognition software that doesn't work so well for those who are non-white, causing law enforcement to potentially arrest the wrong - and innocent - person, Amazon has taken a very strong stand against racism, and in support of Black Lives Matter.
It's been a bit of a rough ride for the company. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Amazon fired some of their employees who were protesting their perceived mistreatment and the lack of health safeguards in place. And by doing so, the company received quite a bit of disgruntled PR. In response, Amazon has taken their messaging one step further by creating a blog in which they posted daily updates dedicated to the steps they are taking to protect their employees at Amazon warehouses and in its Whole Foods stores. In already stormy waters, Amazon has faced a lot of heat.
The company has spoken out in support of Black Lives Matter - tweeting a photo stating “the inequitable and brutal treatment of Black people in our country must stop.” And for those customers who complained about that statement, CEO Jeff Bezos was quick to call them out and say they were the ones in the wrong. Amazon chose a position of support, and they are holding firm.
Software + Electronic Brands
Of course, Amazon is not the only tech company releasing statements supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Sony and Microsoft tweeted statements of their own. After Sony announced a delay for the June 4 PS5 games, they explained that “we want to stand back and allow more important voices to be heard.” Many brand marketers, and even entertainment properties, held back planned PR around product launches, fearing that timing would appear inappropriate. And if not inappropriate, then just get lost in the media storm covering the protests and riots.
Social Media Platforms
Twitter changed its official account bio to #BlackLivesMatter and also changed their signature blue bird icon to a somber black.
U.S. Google & YouTube homepages said, “We stand in support of racial equality, and all those who search for it...For those feeling grief, anger, sadness & fear, you are not alone,” said CEO Sundar Pichai in a statement.
Even Ice Cream Has A Voice Of Support
The phenomenal ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s came out and released a long statement on its website stating that the company is “outraged” over the killing of George Floyd. They also mentioned that they publicly shared their support for the Black Lives Matter movement all the way back in 2016.
Their statement also included a call to action to President Trump, Congress, and the Department of Justice, and additionally provides support towards Floyd’s family. The mega brand is also supporting Mr. Floyd’s family in creating a national task force to help combat racial violence and increase accountability of the police force.
Teaming Up With Competitors
If you’re an athlete of any kind, you know that Adidas and Nike are competitors in the athletic world. However, the two companies have decided to put their differences aside to show how they care about getting justice for the Black community. The idea is that two voices are stronger together.
Nike was the very first brand to truly step up and support Black Lives Matter when they embraced Colin Kaepernick with first their social and later in their TV ad.
Their next move after the protests began was to tweet a video that has gotten major accolades that says ‘For once, don’t do it.’ with the hashtag #UntilWeWin. The video advises everyone to unite and be a part of the change and encourages people to speak up because remaining silent will not do anything to help the cause.
Then the massive miracle happened that is unheard of. One of their biggest competitors, Adidas, stepped forward and shared the video saying “Together is how we can move forward. Together is how we make change.” Nike responded to Adidas with a heart emoji.
That's pretty major in the world of brands.
A Twitter user responded to the two's interaction with, "“Adidas just reposted Nike’s video on Racism. Wow This is a moment.” The fact that the two companies are competitors but decided to team up really makes a statement on what #BLM means to them. This has also stunned many of their consumers - but probably for the better.
Consumers love authenticity. Stats show that 94% of customers are likely to show loyalty to a brand that offers complete transparency. Similarly, 86% of consumers prefer an authentic and honest brand personality on social networks. This means that showing your humanity through your brand, might just win more loyal and engaged customers.
Have Care With The Words You Use
Whether or not to make a statement about any cause - including Black Lives Matter - is often dependent on core consumers values and beliefs. It's nice to say that everyone - and every brand - should take a stand and be outspoken. And often harder to do when companies fear revenue losses.
It would be awesome to say that standing up and doing what is right means you will win - and in the long run, likely true. But those short term losses can trigger a brand's demise. So walking into controversy and embracing it is often a hard decision for many brand marketers to make. And even when brands DO step forward and take action, in our supercharged world of today, one misspoken phrase that was meant with no malice, can lead to heated social media attacks and anger.
It's no surprise why so many brands stay tight lipped and quiet.
According to a 2019 survey Conducted by Clutch, 71% of people think it’s important for businesses to take a stance on social movements. Though, some brands face backlash when making statements that are not carefully worded.
L’Oreal Paris is another company that received lots of retaliation after model Munroe Bergdorf, a Black trans woman, shared that she was dropped from a campaign in 2017 for speaking out against racism. It all started when L’Oreal tweeted a photo and added, “L’Oréal Paris stands in solidarity with the Black community, and against injustice of any kind.”
Munroe Bergdorf then responded to their post stating, “You threw me to the wolves for speaking out about racism and white supremacy.” After the tweet went viral, she added, “I had to fend for myself being torn apart by the worlds press because YOU didn’t want to talk about racism.”
Many consumers then commented on the post siding with the unjust treatment of Munroe. One commented, “L’Oreal, you are so incredibly tone deaf and sanctimonious. And YOUR privilege is showing. You fire a black woman for speaking against racism & then you hire an abusive white woman...all without batting an eye bc you think you can do whatever you want. THAT is privilege.”
Shortly after Bergdorf’s confrontation and many outraged comments from consumers, the company announced that it would be forming a U.K. Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board, which Bergdorf will be a part of.
Donating To The Cause(es)
Even though many notable corporations have spoken up, consumers still want more. All over social media, consumers are repeating the mantra, “open your purse” to corporations that have posted statements about #BLM. Consumers, especially Millennials and Gen Z, who are holding brands to higher social standards than before, want action.Verizon
Verizon was planning to launch its Pride campaign on June 1st, but as many companies have done, put a pause on their Pride campaigns. CEO Hans Vestberg encouraged the company to focus on the Black Lives Matter movement by donating $10 million to social justice organizations, such as the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the National Urban League. Chief creative officer at Verizon, Andrew McKechnie, stated “Verizon’s mission is to move the world forward and you can’t do that unless you are bringing everyone with you, this includes all races, backgrounds and, of course, the LGBTQ+ community.”
Home Depot decided to contribute $1 million to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in support of its vital work to secure civil rights and equal justice for all. They stated “Over our company’s history, we have built an environment where we take care of each other, build strong relationships, and value respect for all people.” Adding, “We do not support discrimination in any form, period.”
A Mix Of Clothing Brands
Clothing companies Levi’s and Banana Republic announced donations on Monday, June 1st. Levi’s posted a statement on Instagram, mentioning their $100,000 donation to ACLU along with an organization on the front lines of social justice issues, Live Free USA. Banana Republic donated $250,000 to NAACP, an organization that fights for racial justice, and EmbraceRace, a community sought to inform and empower children and families. Other clothing companies that have made additional donations can include Aritiza, PrettyLittleThing, Fabletics, Gap Inc., Kith, and Spanx.
Beauty Brands are also speaking up. Millennial-favorite Glossier posted a statement on Instagram in which they stated they would be donating $500K across organizations focused on combating racial injustice. They also mentioned that they will be allocating a further $500,000 in grants to Black-owned beauty businesses with more details to come in the coming weeks.
NYX posted a graphic on their Instagram that read “IT’S NOT OK.” They have also stated that they will be making a donation of an undisclosed amount. The company has also followed up with an additional post that said “No words or donation amounts are enough.” These actions demonstrate ways the company will be recommitting themselves to do better, as well as Listen, Learn and Evolve altogether.
Donations From The Stars
Brands aren’t the only people donating to these causes. Thankfully, the people many look up to the most, are using their platforms to speak up. Grammy Award winner The Weeknd announced that he would be donating $200,0000 to Black Lives Matter Global Network, $200,000 to Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights campaign, and $100,000 to National Bail Out.
Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds and his Gossip Girl wifey Blake Lively also contributed to the act of donations. Together they donated $200,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, in an effort to "use our privilege and platform to be an ally." Another famous couple, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen also decided to donate $100,000 to the bailouts of protestors across the country, in addition to donating to multiple organizations. Musicians Harry Styles, G-Eazy, Megan The Stallion and Cupcakke made donations as well.
Other Celebs Stand Up
In addition to donating $100,000 and encouraging her fans to participate in the movement, Halsey was seen protesting multiple days in a row in the streets of LA. Many other celebrities stepped out of their home, covered their faces with masks, and hit the streets to protest for what they believed in.
[From Left to right: Machine Gun Kelly, Cara Delevingne, Travis Barker, Madison Beer, Jonah Hill, Emily Ratajkowski, Nick Canon, Vanessa Hudgens, Halsey, Ben Affleck, Ana de Armas, Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello, Shawn Mendes, and Michael B. Jordan.]
Riverdale actor, Cole Sprouse was even arrested for protesting with other peaceful protesting in Santa Monica. He shared the experience on his Instagram, mentioning that he had been detained and zip-tied by police.
In his post he also clarified, “This is ABSOLUTELY not a narrative about me, and I hope the media doesn’t make it such. This is, and will be, a time about standing ground near others as a situation escalates, providing educated support, demonstrating, and doing the right thing. This is precisely the time to contemplate what it means to stand as an ally. I hope others in my position do as well. I noticed that there are cameras that roll within the police cruisers during the entirety of our detainment, hope it helps.”
A video went viral after True Jackson VP Star Keke Palmer was seen trying to make peace with the National Guard in an LA protest. Palmer, alongside with other protestors, asked the officers to march alongside them.
One of the soldiers told Palmer that he agreed to what she was saying, but simply couldn’t leave the post he was at, but could march around the block with the group. A woman in the crowd then asked the guard to take a knee, in which he, and his entire team, did.
Some content creators that post everyday like TikTok creator @glitterandlazers refrained from posting from June 1st to June 7th to create more space for Black creators. She stated that she would be “stepping out to amplify melanated voices because our Black creators are at the center of the struggle and their voices and their struggle need to be seen and heard the most.” With only #AmplifyMelanatedVoices as her caption.
Now, refraining from posting for one week can only do so much. Like I said before, consumers want more: they want action. Celebrities including Julia Roberts, Kourtney Kardashian, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ashley Graham all participated in a social media campaign called #ShareTheMicNow, a campaign created to truly let the voices of Black women be heard.
The campaign ran from Wednesday June 10th, as 46 Black activists, celebrities, and content creators took over the accounts of 46 influential white women with large platforms.The intention of the campaign was to ‘magnify Black women and the important work they’re doing in order to catalyze the change that will only come when we truly hear each other’s voices.’
Musicians Selena Gomez, Hayley Williams, Shawn Mendes, and Lizzo have also decided to participate in the platform take over. With 179 million followers, Selena Gomez announced that her Instagram would be taken over by co-creator of Black Lives Matter and one of the founders of Black Futures Lab, Alicia Garza.
Alicia made her first post on Selena's account on June 5th , explaining that the Black Futures Lab is dedicated to “building Black political power & changing the way power operates in cities and states.” She thanked Selena for allowing her to use her platform and added, “If you’re old enough, don’t forget, we actually also get to decide who makes the decisions over the entire country in November. There has never been a more important time for us to get involved and make our voices heard.”
Shawn Mendes announced that he would be giving his platform to ‘incredible young Black changemakers” to do Instagram takeovers on his page. His Instagram takeover began on June 5th, as he posted an image of Activist and Strategist Zyahna Bryant.
According to her website, she currently serves as the youngest member of the inaugural Virginia African American Advisory Board where she was appointed by Governor Ralph Northam. She also serves as a member of President Jim Ryan’s Council on UVA-Community Partnerships.
Actions Really Do Speak Louder Than Words
Consumers are becoming more and more motivated to buy from companies that are transparent about their beliefs and values, especially now, amidst a global pandemic-induced recession. Even with the risk of alienating some customers, the reward may be high for companies that speak up or make donations towards a charity or non-profit organization.
Statistics show that 63% of boomers expect more than just a product from a brand. Not surprisingly, the expectation rises for younger consumers, 76% of Gen Xers, 84% of millennials and 87% of Gen Z say that they expect more. The result of that is that no matter what age your consumers may be, everybody wants more from a brand than a product, they want action.
So perhaps, to make a statement or publicize making donations all comes down to listening to your consumers. In order for brands to connect to with consumers, they must listen and understand how to speak the same language as their consumers. If brands don’t listen, it could result in backlash from many of their customers. Purchasing a product is more than a transaction, it’s about having a voice.
Be sure to check out some of our blogs and learn what it takes to stand out from the crowd!
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- 5 Celebrities Who Sell Brands With Their Voice
- Brands That Invest In LGBTQ Pride
- Representation Of Diversity In Hollywood Casting
- Brand Marketers Use Political Issues To Market To Hispanics