On Tuesday 25th May George Floyd, an African-American man, was murdered in cold blood by a police officer in Minneapolis.
The murder of George Floyd was filmed on social media for everyone to witness and since then the world has erupted in protest, demanding swift and meaningful change. Standing shoulder to shoulder with campaigners are brands like Nike, Sony, Netflix, ASOS and Ben & Jerry’s to name but a few. But, as protests about the violence faced by Black individuals and communities continue to intensify around the world, can brands really show support in a meaningful way?
What are brands doing to show their support?
The response from brands has been largely apathetic, as they’re seemingly hesitant to enter into ‘political’ territory, but some brands have been quick to step forward using social media to align themselves with the movement with hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #JusticeForFloyd.
One brand that’s firmly standing up to racism is Nike. True-to-form, Nike was one of the first to speak out and revealed their ‘For once, don’t do it’ campaign over the weekend, which urged people to not turn their backs on racism.
Long-time rival Adidas also shared Nike’s post commenting, “Together is how we move forward. Together is how we make change.”
Streaming giant Netflix, meanwhile, amassed 1million likes for their post, which stated, “To be silent is to be complicit, Black lives matter. We have a platform, and we have a duty to our Black members, employees, creators and talent to speak up.”
How can brands help to bring about real change?
Beyond words of solidarity, will the actions taken by brands, businesses and marketers bring about positive change, following the death of George Floyd?
However, not all brands that have offered their support have been well-received. Munroe Bergdorf took to Twitter to condemn L’Oreal for jumping on the movement.
Many people are taking to social media to drive the message home that actions speak louder than words and the lesson for marketers is that brands should put their might into creating meaningful change – brands and businesses have the power to reach millions of people with their platforms, but jumping on the bandwagon and paying lip service to a viral movement isn’t going to cut the mustard. Consumers are savvy enough to peel back the optics and if brands can talk the talk but can’t walk the walk, they will face unprecedented scrutiny.
Messages of solidarity from brands like Netflix and Ben & Jerry’s to the Black community are deeply respected because, outside of crisis, they’re value-driven, which makes their words feel genuine and compassionate. They have an active relationship with the Black community and their activist voice works to bring about meaningful change because they have (and continue to) acknowledge that there is a problem.
What role does social media in levelling the field?
Social media has for some time been hailed as the great leveller – amplifying voices and connecting people like never before. It’s been an intrinsic tool for people to make themselves heard and without it, George Floyd’s murder may have gone unnoticed.
Social media has undoubtedly made it possible for these despicable tragedies to attract a global audience and stoke demands for justice. But, isn’t it just devastating that Black trauma needs to go viral for non-Black people give a damn? That’s a loaded question that we all have a duty to reflect on.
What is clear is that social media provides a set of tools for communication, framing and reframing, movement building as well as organising. If enough people stand together for long enough, social media will certainly continue to play an important role when it comes to motivating brands, businesses, communities and people to act and help bring about meaningful change.
Our hearts and thoughts are with you. Let’s work to make sure that we treat everyone with dignity and as equals.
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