As brands increasingly recognise they need to acknowledge the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, understanding its context – and how other brands have both succeeded and failed in addressing it – is a crucial first step.

Writing in the WARC Guide to brand activism in the BLM era, Husani Oakley, Chief Technology Officer at Deutsch New York, notes that, for brands, attaching messages to critical moments is a dangerous game if they do not first understand the moment itself.

“Addressing matters of racial injustice in marketing without prior preparation has been replete with examples of inorganic, unauthentic messages and, as seen with Pepsi’s infamous 2017 Kendall Jenner spot, instant consumer backlash is the price paid,” he says.

Therefore, it is necessary to understand how the BLM movement arrived at its current position. Moreover, he explains, it is actually comprised of three waves, “which were formed not just by incidents of violence – and murder – against Black people, but also by how social media helped propagate awareness of BLM”.

The Martin Wave began #BlackLivesMatter in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Black teenager, in Sanford, Florida. The Brown Wave which followed the 2014 murder by a police officer of 18-year-old Black teenager Michael Brown Jr saw the movement take to the streets in Ferguson, Missouri with a focus on law enforcement officers murdering unarmed Black people.

If that involved a shift from a hashtag to a community, the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, caught on video, struck a chord with almost everyone. “‘Black Lives Matter’ the phrase, as shorthand for a larger concept, was now mainstream, and what had been a limited movement was now mass mobilised,” Oakley observes.

For clarity, he adds that “Black Lives Matter – the hashtag, the phrase, in all possible permutations – is not ‘Black culture’. It is part of the bedrock upon which the American promise is built.

“That said, embracing Black culture and acknowledging its place in American culture is how brands can show that Black Lives actually Matter.”

Doing that in an appropriate way, he advises, requires an understanding of the history that has brought American society to this moment, an authenticity that avoids any ‘othering’ effect, and diverse teams within brands that reflect the society they create messaging for.

For more, read Husani Oakley’s article in full: The three social media waves of the Black Lives Matter movement – and how they impact marketing in this moment

To complement the Guide, WARC will host a webinar on October 27 with guest editor Kai D. Wright and Monique Nelson, Chair and CEO at UWG titled Marketing to Multicultural Consumers Now and in the Coming Majority-Minority. You can register here

Sourced from WARC