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Brands Respond to Racial Injustice

In times of great change and significance, it’s always interesting to watch how not only individuals but also brands react, because consumers fully expect a brand to indeed have a reaction. Reams of research have shown that consumers tend to ascribe human traits to brands and therefore expect brands to express human-centered reactions to societal circumstances and current events. A New York Times Magazine article described branding as a process of humanizing a brand, and through that process infusing meaning into its products.

Brands, acting like humans, will respond and react to the world around them in ways that best align with their consumers’ expectations. Most recently, we’ve seen brands responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with statements about how they are helping/coping/working around the virus or simply sharing a we’ll-get-through-this-together encouraging message. On the whole, consumers across all demographic groups shared similar responses and reactions to the pandemic. However, when consumer sentiment varies, such as with social justice issues, generally out of a great deal of caution and apprehension brands often remain silent. Until now.

Following the eruption of protests and civil unrest sparked by George Floyd’s death in police custody, brands have been speaking out. Disney, Nike, Netflix, the NFL and other big names are encouraging Americans not to turn their backs on racism. With regard to what the brands are saying, this article in AdAge notes, “The brands…that include with their statements actions they plan to take to combat racism are generally faring well. Other brands are being accused of commercializing the tragedy.”

AdAge created a blog post that is regularly updated with a list of responses from brands, media companies and marketing agencies regarding racism and social injustice, capturing for posterity in near real-time messaging crafted to reflect the tenor of American sentiment and resonate with a brand’s consumers. The blog is as thought-provoking from business and social perspectives as it is from a human one. Check out the collected responses to date and keep up with additions here.

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