Top & Flop of the Week: Black Farmer delivers the goods while Royal Mail fails

PRWeek shines a light on major brand and corporate successes and failures of the past week.

Top: Britain’s Black Farmer produces powerful campaign  

The Black Farmer has secured the support of major supermarkets, including Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrison’s, Co-op, Aldi, Lidl, Waitrose, Budgen’s and Ocado, for a campaign to raise awareness that October is Black History Month.

The campaign addresses the underrepresentation of black Britons throughout history, and is a powerful piece of creative. It was written by Neil A Dawson & Company and narrated by Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, founder of The Black Farmer brand. PR support has been provided by 6 Hillgrove.

The food industry has a history of poor representation of black culture, and the Black Lives Matter movement has forced some brands, such as Uncle Ben's, to reflect on and address racial tropes used in their marketing over the years.

The Black Farmer was founded by Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, 63, who was awarded an MBE for services to farming in the 2020 New Year Honours list and is a child of the Windrush generation, having arrived in Britain from Jamaica at the age of four.

The food brand has launched a range of sausages with Caribbean flavours, jerk pork and jerk chicken, and a pack design that celebrates black people's contributions to British society. 

The supermarkets are supporting the campaign by donating in-store promotional space and a share of profits from the sausages to benefit the Black Cultural Archives and The Mary Seacole Trust.

Rather than token gestures, this campaign strikes a good balance of education, activism and helping organisations that address cultural and social inequality.

 

Flop: Royal Mail post box campaign misfires

It was meant as a gesture to honour notable black Britons, but Royal Mail's black post box campaign feels tokenistic and out of place in the current climate.

Just four post boxes – in London, Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast – have been painted black with gold trim to mark Black History Month. Each celebrates a black British person, past or present: Sir Lenny Henry, the comedian, actor and Comic Relief co-founder; Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole; Walter Tull, the first black man to play for the football club Rangers; and artist Yinka Shonibare.

Details of the individual being commemorated are written on the side of their personalised post box. Members of the public can scan a QR code that reveals a full list of black Britons who have appeared on stamps over the years.

The concept is essentially a rerun of Royal Mail's campaign from the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics, when post boxes in medal-winners' home towns were painted gold.

While that campaign was a fun way to celebrate Team GB's medal haul, the association immediately makes the current version feel lightweight when set against the seriousness of racial issues in 2020 and the national soul-searching about our history.

Some commentators have contrasted the 100-or-so boxes repainted for Olympians to the mere four in this campaign. Others have argued that Royal Mail should focus on the lack of ethnic diversity in its own leadership, given the dearth of non-white people on its board.

A satirical video about the campaign, from comedian Munya Chawawa, went viral this week and highlighted a number of its flaws:

The Royal Mail campaign was undoubtedly well-intentioned, but in the current era, and given the subject matter, it unfortunately feels like a misstep.

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