Companies must “have a voice” and demonstrate they “truly care” about issues like racial injustice in the face of rising tensions in the US, according to Manoj Raghunandanan, global president of Johnson & Johnson’s Self Care unit.

The recent death of George Floyd has prompted a wave of protests and shone a light on deep, structural problems of racial inequity in America – matters that demand a response from the business world, Raghunandanan argued.

“What I don’t want to do is trivialise what is an incredibly complex situation of racial injustice in America by boiling it down to a problem that can be solved by marketing. It can’t,” he said during a webinar held by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the trade body. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Johnson & Johnson group president: Marketers must stand up to confront racial injustice.)

Even as marketers must act with the requisite level of humility, “that doesn’t mean that we can't play a role,” Raghunandanan continued. “We can do more. We need to move faster. We have to have a voice.”

Johnson & Johnson can exert a meaningful influence given its size, but the impetus to drive change should extend across the corporate sphere – with marketers helping find the appropriate message and tone for each business.

“The courage for leaders to have a voice in these moments is critically important,” said Raghunandanan. “Silence is the worst move that you can make.”

And that need to speak up applies not only to a nationwide crisis, but also in combatting the daily failures relating to diversity, inclusion and equality that occur in the workplace.

“We’ve all been in that meeting when we heard somebody say something that we weren't comfortable with, that we didn’t think was right. Now, we have to speak up,” Raghunandanan said.

“We’ve all seen a piece of advertising that didn’t have enough diversity in it, and we let it go through our approvals [process]. And we didn’t say, ‘That’s not right’.

“We’ve all been in that place where we’ve looked at an agency team that’s creating our creative for women, and there’s not one woman creative on the team. And we haven’t said, ‘That ain’t good enough.’

In the current moment, Raghunandanan told the ANA webinar audience, “it is the responsibility of our organisations and our brands to have a voice.

“This is the moment for companies to show their salt and demonstrate that they truly care in the ways that they talk about saying they care.”

Sourced from WARC