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Can Influential Brands Align With Social Activism?

Can Influential Brands Align With Social Activism?

A lot of promises are being made right now and we want to know if this motivation is coming from the right place.

Earlier this year, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement brought to fruition the frustration caused by systemic oppression which is still very much alive. As a result, many brands and social media accounts have been flooded with awareness posts to educate us about the importance of social justice. Fast forward to November 2020 – brands have become more socially conscious and public figures have either shown their support or chosen to stay noticeably silent.

According to Accenture research, at least 63 percent of global consumers want to purchase from purpose driven brands. However, we can’t just assume these brands are following through with their promises. We beg the question, is their “support” of the activism behind the Black Lives Matter movement genuine, or is it simply a PR exercise? Brands are able to determine what drives consumer needs but what many of them overlook, is the commitment that is expected and demanded, from a conscious brand. What they must realize, is that by enhancing their systemic structure, they can also improve their brand representation, consumer experience, and overall product. 

The nature of a developed and influential brand is meant to be impactful, and their brand voice often extends beyond their own audience and into pop culture. To give perspective, when a brand posts about solidarity and the need for education on the Black Lives Matter movement, this creates positive publicity and activity on their feeds. However, implementing those promises by restructuring their diversity and representation internally and externally is what counts. Brands need to understand that the Black Lives Matter movement demands an understanding on the intersection of race, religion, and class.

On the positive side, many if not most major brands have made changes to incorporate representation and diversity into their current structure, according to AdAge. Even though major brands have corporate social obligations that must be met, this rearrangement of power can affect their financial structure. Despite these agendas, appropriate restructuring and realigning of values will in fact, enhance their overall brand strength. This consistency and inclusivity must be met with their internal agendas and expressed to their audience as well. To maintain influence their brand must maintain their strength and unity; in short they must attend to keeping their promise of helping because that is the ethical thing to do. 

How to Measure a Brands Activism Response?

According to an article in Harvard Business Review, the following chart is published as a good reference to see where brands fall when it comes to activism. 

When observing this chart, the ideal section to fall under is the “living their values” section. This means that the brand follows through with their activism modeling. The “swing and miss” section is where brands have good intentions but do not follow through well enough. “Owning their position” is the section where brands have a fierce struggle with balance, like we have seen with Twitter. Finally, “brand purgatory” is where brands have been the most inconsistent with their activity. 

Take Sephora for instance, it regularly voices its support for diversity on social media and dedicates a whole section of its website to listing the black owned brands it carries. As a brand, it is overwhelmingly influential and able to extend its efforts with diversity enormously – if it really wanted to invest. This is just one example among many other brands that try to balance their corporate agenda and social activism. When referencing the (often hidden) corporate agenda, the unspoken worry is the influence on the bottom line. Of course, there are many factors to consider but as an influential brand it is their responsibility to be consistent, deliver on promises and give back to the communities who support them.

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If brands want to truly understand their audience, then they must understand what the Black Lives Matter movement demands. Race, religion, and class are unique to each person, however, it has to start with the Black community because a racist double standard has always existed there. The success of the capitalist corporate system is built on the blindness of systemic oppression – this cycle must end, and it must end now. 

This leaves us with a question worth thinking about, will the corporate agenda ever truly align with social activism and how can we ensure they make good on their promises?

A great additional platform that speaks out on inequalities in the fashion and beauty industry geared towards larger brands is @diet_prada on Instagram. 

We would love to hear your thoughts or experiences on this subject – please leave a comment below if this resonates with you.

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