How Brands are Reacting to Black Lives Matter

If pictures are worth a thousand words, this is it.

Protestors are shown defending the Nike store in Long Beach, CA, yelling “Peaceful Protest” amid the nationwide unrest following the death of George Floyd.

As tensions and protests intensify across the country, brands from just about any size and industry are getting behind the Black Lives Matter movement like we have never seen before.

Nike, with its long-standing stance against bigotry, inequality, and hatred, was one of the first major brands to react by creating a powerful video that quickly went viral.

Famously known for its slogan “Just Do It”, this time, Nike’s ad started out with powerful words: “For once, Don’t do it. Don’t pretend there is not a problem in America. Don’t turn your back on racism.”

The ad is simple, yet powerful and authentic, fitting right in with Nike’s target audience and its longtime advocacy for social justice reform, given its award-winning advertising campaign supporting Colin Kaepernick.

Viacom also released a powerful video on Monday that has a black screen simply stating, “I can’t breathe” lasting 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the same amount of time the Minneapolis police officer was sitting on George Floyd’s neck that led to his death.

The video aired across all Viacom networks, including MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network and BET. During the segment, Nickelodeon aired a scrolling screen showing the kids’ declaration.

Other brands like Netflix, Twitter, Ben & Jerry’s and Disney took to social media to post their message of solidarity.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerburg vouched to donate $10 million to groups working for racial justice, while Twitter changed its profile image to a black-and-white version of its logo, accompanied by a hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.

Reebok stated, “Without the black community, Reebok would not exist. America won’t exist. We are not asking to buy our shoes. All we’re asking you to walk in someone else’s,”

Blackout Tuesday

On Tuesday, brands, retailers and just about everyone on Instagram from what we could tell, posted a black square on their Instagram in support of #BlackoutTuesday protest.

The idea of the #BlackoutTuesday protest was conceived from the music industry to pause businesses for the day to show solidarity for the Black Lives Matter protests.

Denim brand Lucky Brand took it a step further by closing all 250 stores in North America, offices and website on Tuesday as a way to give its employees paid off time to reflect on the recent events in Minneapolis and demonstrations across the country.

Now is Not the Time to be Silent

One of the central messages that has stood out from the recent events is Martin Luther King’s famous quote, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

Staying silent during this time will do a brand more harm than good.  Brands have global influence on many levels, from customers to employees, vendors and influencers. The least they can do is speak up and take a stance.

“Now is not the time to be silent, neither is it the time to jump on a bandwagon. It’s a time for real reflection and care with regards to how a brand and its leaders stand by the black community at this time and move forward with real steps to end racism and injustice globally and not only on the streets but in their organizations too,” said Cephas Williams, founder of 56 Black Men.

Is It Enough?

Protesters want more than words from major brands. They want them to put their words into action and actually donate to causes that fight against racism and police violence. Some of the brands that have reached into their wallets to fight racism include Peloton, &Pizza, Slack, Facebook, and Lyft, among many others.

While many brands were applauded for their authentic messaging and support for Black Lives Matter, other brands received backlash. For example, YouTube’s promise to spend $1 million on initiatives against racism was met with criticism given its historically weak moderation efforts against racist content.

“Brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Netflix and American Express’s messages to the black community are deeply appreciated because, outside of crisis, they demonstrate consistency and acknowledgment, which makes their words now authentic and empathetic,“ stated Sabrina Clarke-Okwubanego, co-founder of Niche On Demand.

While it’s unclear how long these protests will last, one thing we can all agree on is that Black Lives Matters is no longer just a social media hashtag, slogan and social movement, but a global human rights movement with the mission to end violence and systemic racial injustice against black people.

Only time will tell if real change will occur.

Written by Tabasum Lutfi
Lead Digital Strategist at TriVision

Featured Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon


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