Effective Marketing During a Global Movement


Effective Marketing During a Global Movement

As a Black woman, a mother of two beautiful Black sons and a wife of an incredible Black husband, the Black Lives Matter movement is deeply personal to me. After observing Juneteenth last week, it is with both a heavy heart and with immense hope that I reflect upon the concept of freedom. My husband and I took our two young boys down to our nation’s capital and the newly renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza in commemoration of Freedom Day for Black Americans. We used this as an educational opportunity for our sons on the complexity of the Black Experience—the PG version of our nation’s history, rooted in slavery followed by the Black codes, Jim Crow and mass incarceration, the remnants of all which have created the pervasive institutionalized racism that continues to restrict Black people’s freedom today. Fortunately, for all of us, we appear to have reached the tipping point to put an end to the racially-motivated violence against black bodies; and as a result, we are at the brink of a cultural shift toward equality and equity to eradicate the systemic racism that continues to stain the history of mankind.

Black Lives Matter. Just a few short months ago, uttering or hashtagging this simple phrsase could get you categorized as an ultra-militant; but now it has officially transitioned to a popular marketing message for brands across industries, desperate to prove that they care and are part of the fabric of our community.

"The superior man acts before he speaks and afterwards
speaks according to his actions."

– Confucius

As an owner of a culturally and ethnically diverse, strategic marketing agency, Black Lives Matter is again personal. Before founding The Phoenix, I spent a quarter century in leadership positions in the marketing industry, unconsciously compiling the list of heart-breaking examples of overt racism and infuriating microaggressions that I’ve personally experienced, witnessed and fought uphill battles to address. Suffice it to say that Diversity and Inclusion are core tenets of our brand identity at The Phoenix. The beautifully-diverse tapestry that makes the Phoenix Team who we are is a driving force behind how our agency operates. Although we know that consistently deploying diverse perspectives assures the achievement of the best business outcomes, we are committed to celebrating diversity and ensuring inclusivity at every organizational level because it is what is right. This is inherent to our brand DNA.

We, like the rest of the world, are witnesses to this historic cultural revolution. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests that spread like wildfire around the globe, soon came the cavalcade of #BLM solidarity statements from brands large and small. As marketers, we have been reflecting on and deeply discussing the corporate decisions that have been announced. Some brands have made financial commitments to organizations leading the charge for change as well as pledges to address discrimination within their organizations, while many brands have done nothing at all to support their well-crafted solidarity statement and freshly designed #BLM graphics.

Whether your business has a history of authentically demonstrating your commitment to equality and equity through deeds and actions like Ben & Jerry's or whether your visible past of demonstrated inequity follows you like the National Football League, having a #BLM statement is a ubiquitous badge of honor for big brands and small brands alike. Nonetheless, just as John Newton, author of the popular hymn Amazing Grace was able to go from being an atheist slave trader to an Anglican priest and abolitionist, so too do brands have the opportunity for redemption. Brands are able to turn away from their past transgressions and work toward a brighter future, with the caveat that they must couple this new stance with deeds and actions that demonstrate their commitment to equality.

If you’re gonna talk about it, be about it. Right? The following are some simple suggestions that we have shared with our client partners that can help brands to ‘talk the talk’ AND ‘walk the walk.’

EDUCATE YOURSELF. The history that has brought us to where we are today is long and intricate. It must be learned in order to fully comprehend the complexities of that history’s continued impact on minority communities. Without a true understanding, you cannot be a part of the solution.

MAKE A STATEMENT. Let your internal stakeholders and brand fans know where you stand. Public communications of solidarity can have powerful positive impact on the movement of those who are on the fence or haven’t yet been educated on the dynamics of the problem. It is important to ensure that the message is carefully crafted and reviewed from diverse perspectives to avoid potential colloquial missteps.

AUDIT YOUR ORGANIZATION. It is important to understand where you stand as a company so that you may come to terms with that reality and build a roadmap for internal improvement

  • What does your board look like?
  • What does your organization’s leadership/progression planning look like?
  • What are you doing internally to ensure a collaborative culture of diversity?
  • What is your organization doing in the community?

PROACTIVELY MAKE AMENDS. Identify and come to terms with your past transgressions that may be incongruent with your new stance. Honest, straightforward communications can be a powerful redemption story that can inspire a community.

IDENTIFY ACTIONABLE PLAN. Lay out the strategy and the tactical plan that you will follow in order to make your commitment an authentic component of your brand DNA. Companies wanting to prove that equity and equality are important have no shortage of opportunities to support, as there are so many facets to systemic racism that require addressing – racial disparity in Health Care, Education, Criminal Justice, Hiring Practices, Real Estate, Banking and Finance – the list goes on.

DO THE WORK. Consistently and committedly. Ongoing commitment to equitable treatment is a human rights issue that will continue to be important, as Black Lives Matter is a catalyst for a much broader discussion about humanity. All Lives Cannot Matter until we can all agree that Black Lives Matter.

"How many years has it taken people to realize that
we are all brothers and sisters and human beings
in the human race?"

– Marsha P. Johnson