Justice & Authentic Marketing: An Ongoing Conversation
By Savannah Bilbo
Social justice has taken the forefront of many marketing campaigns—and rightfully so. There have been many unthinkable injustices against people of color (POC) and brands that don’t acknowledge it inevitably fail to accurately represent the climate of these challenging times. As time goes on, and younger generations become more aware of what’s happening in the world, they want to see proof that the brands they support care about these prevalent issues. People, especially young people, want to do business with companies that share their ideals.
Taking a stand may seem like a risk on the front end—but staying silently is just as risky. There are many people who are quick to stop shopping with a specific company because they’ve discovered that brand’s bad business practices. A recent report found that 60% of Americans felt that brands should speak out against systemic racism and racial injustice. Brands that stay silent or post inauthentic statements concerning the Black Lives Matter movement—or racial injustice as a whole—are likely to lose business or be publicly criticized. By crafting diverse advertising campaigns that are genuinely authentic, organizations can learn to be effective and successful allies.
Shared below are some strategies and helpful tips that can be used when drafting a statement about social justice or creating meaningful and diverse campaigns.
Authenticity in Design
By Melissa Rosenthal
In light of recent events, we’ve seen many brands come forward to show their support to visibly divisive outcomes. Some brands and individuals have spoken as a result of social pressure and not necessarily because justice is an integral part of their brand ethos. That being said, there are plenty of brands that have utilized their social media platforms to express authenticity in their statements.
One brand with a commendable message and online presence is Ben & Jerry’s. The well known ice cream brand has long since made a commitment to promoting social good and has made a point to include activism in their core brand values. They have utilized their visual identity to create digestible and shareable content surrounding events related to BLM. Going forward, brands that have spoken on these issues should maintain their values and further emboss them into their brand as a whole rather than crafting hollow social media statements to ensure temporary social approval. More well loved brands, such as Ben & Jerry’s, can (and should) use their platforms and design resources to share their values on a regular basis.
Supporting BLM From the Inside Out
By Sara Bandurian
Showing commitment to social justice externally is important, but you must also focus your efforts within your company to truly make a positive impact. Stereotypes, barriers, and inequitable beliefs are rampant in the workplace. The first step to transforming your business into an equitable environment is to take a critical eye to your internal policies, and understand how they may—albeit unintentionally—negatively affect your in-house teams.
Common policies in the workplace that aren’t actually equitable include:
- Inflexible work hours.
- Gendered bathrooms.
- Lack of paternity leave, or not granting maternity/paternity leave to adoptive parents.
- Bereavement policies that include blood relatives and spouses only.
- Granting vacation days that revolve around a strictly Christian-based calendar.
- Recruitment outreach that does not actively extend into a diverse group of communities.
- Biased language used within your job application process.
There are many other ways that businesses may improve their policies to come closer to being truly equitable. While those listed above apply to most businesses, you should continue to look for ways to make your policies truly equitable and inclusive.
The A Pledge
By Ariel Diaz
On the other end, businesses should look to promote and support social justice externally, and outside of their own branding. Businesses can do this through community outreach efforts, such as volunteer opportunities or making financial donations to nonprofit organizations. Businesses have also established corporate donation matching programs. For example, you can read about Online Optimism’s Donate, Elevate program, and how we offer a 2:1 donation match to all of our employees’ donations.
Another tactic businesses are taking involves teaming up with other businesses to make a difference within their community, whether that be their industry or their region. Atlanta-based marketing companies, for example, have come together to create The A Pledge. This pledge “is a call to Atlanta advertising and marketing agencies to come together in a committed effort to create inclusive opportunities within our industry. Over the next decade, we will make the changes needed to ensure our teams reflect the diversity of our community. As we do, we will see systemic opportunity grow in our industry, our city, and our nation.”
We have established that it’s crucial that a brand use their own voice and social media platforms in fighting for social justice. Beyond that, giving one’s time and resources to nonprofits, who are more knowledgeable in how to take action, or joining together with other industry leaders to extend your reach and increase your reach exponentially, is a powerful way to further lend support to these causes.
By Zora Khiry
It is important to be honest and true to your brand when making a conscious effort to be vocal on issues of social justice. Your brand can get it in hot water for speaking up on an issue in an inauthentic or ignorant manner. Make sure your brand has researched the issue of concern, as well as your audience’s inclinations and responded in a way that is true to your consumers and your brand’s values. Always remember, consumers can recognize and appreciate transparency.
A good place to start when speaking out on social justice issues is to address your brand’s history of action or inaction. Own up to your own shortcomings, make a plan to improve, and encourage other brands to do the same. That’s how you’ll make a lasting impact on your industry—and the people it serves.