As protests filled the streets of nearly every major American city over the weekend, brands began flooding social media with anti-racism messages, including bold proclamations of how they plan to address the injustice highlighted by the police-involved death of George Floyd. But before firing off knee-jerk responses, brands should consider carefully their broader strategy. Because talk is cheap and consumers will punish marketers who fail to follow through with action, or are seen as inauthentic, branding experts say.
“The reality of it is, as a community, a black community, we are tired. This is no longer just our fight. It’s very difficult for a brand to just sit on the sidelines and say this isn’t going to impact their brand or their business,” says Ahmad Islam, CEO of Ten35, an agency that specializes in reaching multicultural, millennial and Gen Z consumers. “Brands have to first establish their voice and their position and then from there, start to take action.”
Indeed, a recent poll from Morning Consult found that 71 percent of Americans say it’s important for a business leader to address racial inequality in the U.S., and 64 percent say these leaders should help handle the protests occurring as a result of Floyd’s death. A majority of those surveyed said they want brands to set up funds in support of small businesses and retailers affected by the looting.
Below, some guidance from experts on how brands should proceed.
Generalized statements simply don’t cut it anymore—a point made by an image circulating on social media that makes fun of the paint-by-numbers approach some brands have taken.