As brands across the US take a stand on #BlackLivesMatter, consumers want more than just lip service
Earlier this week, brands across the US stepped up in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement over George Floyd’s death. “For once, Don’t Do It. Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America. Don’t turn your back on racism. Don’t accept innocent lives being taken from us. Don’t make any more excuses. Don’t think this doesn’t affect you. Don’t sit back and be silent. Don’t think you can’t be part of the change. Let’s all be part of the change,” sportswear company Nike said in its latest campaign. Additionally, the brand committed to investing $40 million over the next four years to support the black community. From L’Oréal, Reebok, Glossier to H&M, Amazon and Alexander McQueen among others, are some of the other brands which have come forth to lend their voice. “Consumers are keener on engaging with brands which are authentic and work towards a cause,” Swati Jain, marketing director, AVON India told BrandWagon Online.
However, consumers want brands to provide more than just lip service. For instance, apparel company Zara’s communication on its social media platforms stating, “We stand For Equality” drew huge flak being interpreted as ‘vague’ and ‘ lacking substance.’ Another brand which drew criticism was sportswear manufacturer company Adidas. The company in its campaign struck off the word racism on its social platforms which led to an online chatter around how it lacked a stance. Later, the company released a detailed list of commitments to the black community. For Prem Narayan, chief strategy officer, India, Ogilvy, more than ever, brands need to be salient. “The digital mediums have also made it easier to be present in moments more often. There is sometimes fear of missing out among brands. This results in brands making a random and less meaningful connection. However, when done right it aids brand salience, affinity and sales,” Narayan added.
Unilever too received a backlash from users on social media platforms such as Twitter on its stand against racism. The company was criticised for selling skin-lightening product Fair and Lovely. According to brand experts, the need for authenticity has only increased as consumers today are very evolved and connected. “Brands need to accept, acknowledge and chart out a future plan of action aimed at creating important conversations and driving change,” Upasna Dash, founder and CEO, Jajabor Brand Consultancy stated.
Moreover, the tonality of communication plays an important role. According to Ajay Gahlaut, chief creative officer and managing director, Publicis Worldwide India, companies need to have a genuine point of view on things that should be congruent with the brand’s value, otherwise it turns counterproductive. “Communications need to be done responsibly as it holds a lot of weightage to impact and influence the society,” he added.
Finally, every brand needs to follow a narrative which can be leveraged to communicate on relevant matters to build one line of thinking. “Instead of driving multiple stories, have a common factor around which the world revolves for the brand. This helps maintain a timely connection between the brand and its consumers,” Prathap Suthan, managing partner and chief creative officer, Bang in the Middle, noted. As more and more brands take to cause marketing, it will be imperative for companies to follow what it preaches, will it happen? Time will tell.