Dear Brands, It’s Never Too Late to Change

#BLM2020 says better late than never

Cover image via @mattblease

Black Lives Matter has become a worldwide phenomenon. While it started in the United States, the movement spurred rallies and protests in other continents in solidarity for the oppressed. 

With governments and social systems coming under mounting pressure from the people demanding for racial equality and justice, brands are also feeling the heat of the movement.

Over the past month, a few global brands have taken necessary measures, such as rebranding or the total removal of products deemed discriminatory:

  1. The world leader in beauty, L’Oréal, has announced that they will remove the words “white/whitening, fair/fairness and light/lightening” from its skin products. 
  2. Johnson & Johnson will cease selling its skin-whitening creams that are widely popular in Asia and the Middle East. 
  3. Quaker Oats will be retiring one of their syrup brands, Aunt Jemima which was named after a racist stereotype. 
  4. Colgate-Palmolive has promised to review their branding of its Chinese toothpaste brand ‘Darlie’ which translates into “Black Person Toothpaste” in Mandarin, and whose logo used to depict a black man.
  5. Unilever announced the rebranding of their skin-lightening cream ‘Fair & Lovely’ to ‘Glow & Lovely’ because the name indicates negative stereotypes towards people with darker skin tones. 

As the world continues the heated debate about racial inequality, established multinational corporations are seeing the need to take a stand in this global movement. 

Therein lies the question - why have they decided to change now? The Black Lives Matter demonstrations started way back in 2014. In all these years, something could’ve been done. 

So why the sudden initiative in 2020?

CSR is crucial for a brand 

According to a YouGov Omnibus research quoted in The Malaysian Reserve in 2018, 92% of Malaysian consumers said that businesses have a responsibility to do social good. 

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities have always been a crucial PR move for any brand. Not only do they actually help those in need, these actions build brand awareness and positive traction. 

A genuine approach is also vital to connect with their target audience. In other words, mean what you say, and walk the talk. 

For Colgate-Palmolive, changing the whole direction for their toothpaste brand, Darlie, which has been on the market for more than 35 years, is a monumental decision.

It might be 35 years too late, but it’s a first step towards the right direction. It demonstrates their commitment to change, and letting consumers know that their voices are heard, and that they matter.

Who calls the shots now?

Image via Medium

Say what you want about the millennials and the Gen Zs. With better access and exposure to higher education, they are one of the most well-educated generations yet, and they are charging right into adulthood with more liberal worldviews. Their worldviews act as a guide to how they spend their money. 

In 2018, The Star reported a Pew research that projected millennials to make up one-third of the global workforce in 2020. 

With an increase in purchasing power, the millennials and Gen Zs have wide options on how and where to spend their money. In the end, they’d go back to brands who are ethical - they care about companies that practice authenticity and their ability to address social issues. 

With the younger generations calling the shots, brands can no longer sideline issues that arise from the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Moving forward, these are the questions that brands should consider in their long-term plan to eradicate racial inequality:

  1. Does my brand/product project any aspect of racism?
  2. How do we handle the issue and strive for improvement?
  3. What can I do to show support for social issues?

Regardless of the target consumer, it is important for brands to embody their audience’s worldview, and make it their own to gain their confidence and trust.  

Stand out from other businesses

Image via Entrepreneur India

A strong brand stands out by establishing meaningful relationships with its audience through valuable messaging. 

Seizing the right opportunity and applying necessary changes to show support in addressing racial injustice is definitely one way to add value to a brand. 

Johnson & Johnson and L’Oréal have demonstrated their commitment to the cause by pledging to review their established products. Unilever too, has taken action to replace their inappropriate product branding. 

These are the aspects of emotional marketing that aims to connect brands with their audience in a personal way. The stronger the connection, the more brands can stand out by building a loyal fanbase. 

Regardless of the array of marketing approaches, the most successful brands always possess these qualities - authenticity and emotional branding. They are powerful driving forces that not only resonates with the audience, but also adds a tinge of personality to a brand’s emotional marketing. 

So, props to the brands that are finally coming to their senses by addressing their underlying systemic issues and playing their part in fighting for racial inequality.

These brands just proved that it’s never too late to make a change. 

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