Brands & #BlackLivesMatter – how companies have navigated a shift in culture

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Black Lives Matter is an incredibly important conversation playing out in social media at the moment, one that brands feel compelled to enter into. Which brands have done this thoughtfully and which have stumbled? I consider three companies’ responses to #BLM and what we can learn from them.

Between March and May 2020 we have gone from being completely consumed by news of the rapidly spreading coronavirus crisis to being caught up in a wave of anger and protest after we witnessed George Floyd killed by a police officer on the streets of Minneapolis. That anger has now turned to a wider re-examination of much of the fabric of our society – unearthing the racism which exists in the structures – physical and intangible – around us.

Many brands have had to react to this movement. Our news feeds, newspapers and TV screens have been completely overtaken by BLM, mirroring the protests taking over our streets. And consumers have often demanded that their favourite brands take a stand either way.

Entering this sensitive and emotional conversation is fraught with difficulty for brands. Consumers want their brands to be activists. In a 2018 study 63% of global consumers said they want to purchase from purpose-driven brands. But people are increasingly aware of brands paying lip service to popular movements on social media without following up with real-world action.

I have looked at three brand responses to the BLM movement and considered what we can learn from them:

Wendy’s: Making promises they haven’t kept 

There has been some anger directed at American fast food restaurant Wendy’s for a tweet they posted on 4th June stating that they would be using their platform to amplify black voices: