Why Anti-Racist Marketing and Branding?
We are in the future; we finally have the self-driving cars dreamt about for generations, we use palm-sized phones as powerful as computers, we trade digital currency, and so much more. The romantic, once far-off, shiny, silver future every kid dreams about is now our adulthood reality. Progress, advancement, and evolution are evident in every aspect of modern life.
Well, almost every aspect. While our physical surroundings and quality-of-life advancements reflect centuries of progress, the representation and treatment of many of our fellow humans do not.
It’s 2021, hundreds of thousands of years of human activity, but judgment and action based on the color of someone’s skin still seem to be a perpetual and inescapable battle. With the advent of social media and widespread communications technology, we continue to experience shifts in education, consciousness, and empathy. Living in a world with unbroken racism against marginalized and underrepresented community members is not living at all.
The Moral and Social Roles of Agencies in Combatting Racism
In these times of social upheaval and transformation, the functions of marketing and branding agencies are more critical than ever. Agencies are directly responsible for what everyone sees, consumes, and reacts to daily. Considering agencies as umbrellas for all the companies and institutions under their guidance, we see it as their moral obligation to use their wealth of social, political, and financial capital to transform the standard of living for the very consumers supporting their very existence.
Agencies, with all of this capital, must set the bar, the standard. The standard is a world without racism. That means amplifying brands and voices leading in JEDI values (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion). And it also means, if they haven’t started, they must start today.
It’s no secret that a commitment to anti-racism messaging and branding is long overdue, especially when populations most vulnerable to racist attitudes and actions will soon represent the majority of the United States population. It’s estimated that nearly 4 out of every 10 Americans consider themselves an ethnicity or race other than white. Therefore, more than 50% of the nation’s consumers will soon be represented by people whose physical or cultural representation can potentially render them future victims of hatred and hostility.
For example, in a 2019 Nielsen report, African American consumers outpaced spending nationally. Yet, there is still a severe deficit in effectively representing and reaching out to them through media and marketing, let alone promoting anti-racist rhetoric.
So Why Commit to Anti-Racism Marketing? Why Now?
Let’s break it down into two primary reasons to simplify what can be a complex and never-ending conversation.
First, agencies, firms, institutions, corporations, and anyone in between have a moral obligation to use their resources and efforts to change the world for good. If entities with tons of resources do not motivate change, what are they really good for?
The importance of anti-racist marketing and branding is not to be overstated. Social Learning Theory defines the idea that we learn from others. Whatever we see, observe, and consume will teach us and lead us to do the same thing. Agencies are responsible for a massive quantity of the information and content we consume daily.
It goes without saying; then, agencies have the moral obligation and the opportunity to enact substantial, tangible, and long-lasting change. By promoting anti-racist agendas, by setting the tone, more and more people will do the same.
Secondly, marketing is a numbers game, and sadly, some people need to see the numbers in action and need to see the proof to find the motivation to invest in an effort for the greater good. Well, here it is.
A commitment to anti-racist marketing is a win-win for all. More and more people will be exposed to branding that promotes awareness and equity, leading to more open minds and hearts. Not only that, but 40% of U.S. consumers “are more likely to consider doing business with” companies that actively and proudly use their platforms to advocate against racial injustice.
So whether branding is committed to anti-racist messaging for moral or business perspectives, there is nothing to lose and everything to gain. Agencies responsible for crafting thousands of consumer narratives now need to ensure they craft their own narrative. Whether it is from the genuine compassion for the wellbeing of others or their survival, the timing is critical, and the future is now; a future without racism is possible within our lifetime, but the work starts today.
We dare to disrupt dominant culture, but we can’t do it alone. Progress is only possible with the people’s support. Through diverse discussions, ideas, and perspectives, everything we are working for in the present is to define a future without racist systems, institutions, and beliefs.