Brands Have the Power (and Responsibility) to Create Change

As a marketer, I wonder, what more can we be doing? We have conversations about the history of racism in our own country. We value every life and try to be the flag carriers of kindness and compassion. All of this in hopes of supporting a future that is more diverse and inclusive. We have the privilege to work with many wonderful organizations, and I can see firsthand how every brand can make an impact. These brands have the power to strengthen and transform. It begins with brand culture. 

The Standard Response

In response to the killing of George Floyd and the resulting protests that call for justice, both large companies and small businesses are working quickly to produce content in support of the cause. Brands like Nike and Nickelodeon, along with hundreds of other companies, sports teams and celebrities are producing messaging that has been criticized for sounding and looking the same. This “template” approach to national and global crises has become a standard crisis reaction for brands.

Contemporary marketing theory suggests brands need to show up where its audience is congregating online and engage with the topics they care about. That means, “riding the wave of memes and random topics that sustain social-media chatter, posting in the same formats as everyone else, often acting more like a friend than a company — even in times of tragedy.” This approach shows a company is being transparent and aware of the current world climate and is a step toward progress.

Brands should avoid performative activism — posting content that aligns with what’s trending in order to keep up appearances. Instead tackle the hard work of dismantling the system of oppression, starting with your own brand. As a society, we are all being called on to follow through and join the fight for the long hall, even after the current events and trending topics fizzle. Brands have a bigger responsibility to fight for change because of the power and reach they yield. However, as a company, true change comes from your brand culture.

Proactive, Not Reactive

Companies have the power to do so much more, starting with their brand culture. A brand culture is how a company consistently and competitively delivers its brand. It is more than a visual expression; it is the people communicating value and mission on a daily basis in person and online. If a company truly wants to take a stand on changing systematic racism, ingrain it in your brand culture.

In the cause for black lives matter, a few ideas include:

  • Supporting partnerships with businesses owned by minorities and people of color. Putting your dollars into their entrepreneurship will encourage others to start their own ventures and diversify the business landscape.
  • Have conversations, whether it’s in networking settings, webinars or meetings, about how racism impacts customers, and what more the company can be doing to serve its customers, understand their needs and help solve their problems.
  • Ensure your brand culture has a zero-tolerance policy for racism between employees, and employees interacting with customers.

Activate Change

Brands have the power to make change. Educate your employees on respect at every level and hold them to the highest standard. Use your channels and content as a way to share positive messages about our society, how we can progress and what more we can be doing. Your brand, your employees, have a voice – this is your opportunity to go beyond the one-time solidarity post and be part of the change.

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