The last few weeks have been dominated by the news and support about the Black Lives Matter (BLM). A lot of brands are supporting BLM, for example by posts on their social media accounts. Companies often tend to be afraid of offending their customers and associating their brands with sensitive subjects. American advertisements often shy away from addressing political issues, like impeachment, and also steer clear of news stories about violence, drugs and, recently, the coronavirus pandemic. But after George Floyd died on a Monday in Minneapolis, a wide range of companies began to take much more public stances on racial injustice and police violence.

Social awareness

Speaking out on social issues is often a calculated decision, a form of “values and identity-driven targeted marketing,” said Americus Reed, a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. By aligning corporate values with what customers care about, companies are hoping to build a sense of loyalty and a deeper sense of personal connection, he said. Also, about half of the young people in the big cities have a non-western migration background; these are the consumers of the future. Building diversity in your company is essential. Not only for your own social responsibility but also for a reason that marketers will care about: to stay relevant and thus to survive.

In addition, consumers increasingly expect more from brands. Fair and socially involved brands seem to be catching on with (young) consumers. Research shows that in the US, nearly 70% of young people believe that brands should be involved in the #BLM movement (Pulse, 2020). In the Netherlands, 73% of young people would expect more from brands socially than they currently see (PIM, 2019). And it is expected that the consumer will only become more critical.

Brands who made a BLM statement 

Ben & Jerry's has been an advocate for equal rights for years and supports relevant legislation. Starbucks hosted a partner platform where 2000 people could tell their story. Also, many American customers change their name to "Black Lives Matter" when ordering at Starbucks so that it is constantly called through space. H&M closed 95 stores in the USA in solidarity with demonstrators and donated $ 500,000 to relevant organizations. As Netflix posted on Twitter on Saturday: “To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter. We have a platform, and we have a duty to our Black members, employees, creators and talent to speak up.” Similar tweets have come from Disney-owned Fox and Hulu. Apple Music joined the “Black Out Tuesday” campaign to raise awareness about issues of systemic ethnic inequity. Nike has repurposed its famous slogan with its “For once, Don’t Do It” advert. Although the brands collect a lot of likes with these statements and promotions, many brands are also accused of "jumping on the bandwagon" or posting for their own gain.

Not only say it but also do it

Some people are annoyed by the fact that brands are only giving support through social media. They think that if these companies really wanted to do something meaningful, they would get off social media and get on with changing who is in charge. One black CEO is worth a billion ‘Black Lives Matter’ tweets. It’s important that if brands are serious about black lives, that they show that. Otherwise, it’s talk. Social media talk. From inside a brand bubble that remains part of the problem. Not part of any long-term solution.