Black Lives Matter proves that brands must stand for something, or fall for anything

Being an ally to a cause is a long-term process that requires taking the conversation offline.

The killing of George Floyd has sparked a powerful wave of protest around systematic injustice, police brutality and racial inequality. Since video footage of the event has gone viral, tensions have quickly flared within the US, with voices echoing support all around the world for the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM). While we’ve seen similar events draw attention and public concern, this incident seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back – igniting critical conversations around race, but also bringing brand activism to the forefront of the discussion. 

In the same way that protestors are calling for urgent action from authorities, consumers are demanding that brands take tangible action. Brands are being called out for releasing hollow statements of solidarity, and also being asked to prove whether their internal structures are truly reflective of the diverse ideologies they communicate. 

Havas’s Meaningful Brands Study reveals that 55 per cent of consumers believe brands play a more important role than governments to create a better future. This means that highly informed consumers expect brands to exceed function and be socially impactful.  So, how can brands go beyond optics and prove genuine allyship? 

Know your audience – Consumers today are extremely conscious of authenticity. Coming across as tone deaf can do considerable damage to a brand’s image. It’s important that all communication is thoughtful, genuine, and tactful.

Identify the right tools – For brands who truly want to increase trust markers, it’s important to identify the tools that will help them become more socially active. Implementing social listening tools to understand concerns and general sentiment will help determine how to contribute in an authentic manner. 

Look inward before speaking outward – Brands need to genuinely ask themselves if they have directly or indirectly contributed to the problem in the past. If yes, own up to it and be transparent about how your brand is taking measurable steps to improve. 

Be the change you post about – Don’t be a Slacktivist. When a brand chooses to take part in the conversation, it’s critical to commit to how to tackle the problem in the long term, as opposed to making a performative statement. This means being vocal about monetary contributions, as well as leveraging platforms to amplify calls to action and drive the conversation forward.

Being an ally to a cause is a long-term process that requires taking the conversation offline. Once brands prove their genuine commitment, loyalty will follow. 

Razan Karim is communications director at Havas Middle East

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