July 27, 2020

Beyond Hashtags and Black Squares

Why it’s incumbent for brands to get it right at this historic moment #blacklivesmatter


Businesses have been hit hard by the events of the past few months. The death of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter and disparate experiences of African Americans with Covid-19 have provided an opportunity to reexamine how we, our country, and our products or services are experienced. You must stand in this moment and be authentic, honest and reflective about your brand. Are you prepared to show up with more than just social posts and public declarations of support? Have you determined a level of support that is consistent with your brand values? This is an opportunity to answer these questions and reconcile with the past. To be honest about whether your brand has supported this community and further, whether it has contributed to perpetuating racial, ethnic and other stereotypes. Brands can develop a strategic, empathetic plan to move forward and connect on a human level to learn and grow with their consumers.

According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, Black buying power in 2019 was $1.4 trillion and is projected to grow to $1.8 trillion by 2024. With that kind of buying power, brands need to unabashedly support this segment. Being empathetic by understanding what your consumers are going through and their experiences will take a brand a long way. By being allies, advocates and sponsors, brands are able to increase brand loyalty, awareness and love, which should have a huge impact on sales/revenue if managed correctly. All businesses should fully embrace this moment and recognize the benefit of truly investing in diverse communities.

Throughout the media landscape, there are brands that are taking bold, audacious and fearless actions and are moving the conversation forward. Brands like Sephora, which took the unprecedented move to be the first retailer to commit to allocating 15% of its shelf space to Black-owned business which reflects the percentage of Black people in the United States, are really winning. Additional examples include Band Aid pledging to diversify the color of its bandages to include black and brown tones and Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben changing their names and removing their historical brand images due to racial stereotypes.

Brands are doing the intense work of looking at themselves to see how they can en-gage in this social debate while remaining true to their brand heritage. Below are some of the numerous organizations doing the thoughtful work necessary to have their brands resonate in this moment.

Allies, advocates, collaborators are all a part of the current conversations about race and social justice. Allies allow or create platforms for growth and understanding. Advocate brands use existing platforms and can play a pivotal role in ushering a cultural shift as they have the political, economic and social influence to facilitate moving the partners mission forward. Collaborators are brand partners that develop internal and external partnerships to address industry wide systemic problems.

For brands, defining which you are is critical to future brand positioning and enduring associations. To navigate this very diverse, uncharted territory, brands must look outside of their current teams and structure. Agencies with diverse representation are uniquely positioned to assist brands through this transformational moment. An agency such as Leverage Marketing Advisors can provide brands the benefit of a collective of C-Suite level executives with the expertise, knowledge and experience to deliver deeply connected and thoughtful activations that are in sync with this moment in time.

Now is the time. In the words of Hamilton, “Don’t throw away your shot!”

Michelle Blake Wilson

Michelle Blake Wilson is a recognized experiential brand and marketing strategist, who has helped grow national companies in the retail, luxury, sports and entertainment sectors.