As the generation associated with the civil rights movement of the Sixties, Boomers should be all too familiar with this painful time. Back then, many of us were filled with moral outrage over the inequities in our country. Today's social unrest reinforces the well-known saying, "The more things change, the more they remain the same."
Some of us may have found it heartening when Barack Obama was elected as the first black president -- a vindication of sorts. Even so, racial injustice did not abate; in fact, racial discrimination only grew, and now it has reached an explosive moment. The sobering reality is that it is deeply embedded in our society.
As a retired marketing professional, I look at this reality through another lens. I pay particular attention to how brands react in moments like these.
Four days after George Floyd’s death, Nike took a bold step, modifying its iconic “Just Do It” slogan to read, “For once, Don’t Do It” in an ad that urged, “Don’t turn your back on racism. … Don’t think you can’t be part of the change.”
Nike’s ad is emblematic of businesses and organizations jumping on the bandwagon of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Brand advertising campaigns in support of the movement are springing up everywhere. Most advertisers are adopting a mea culpa attitude, acknowledging their racist culpability and promising to make amends.
Edelman, a leading public relations firm, just conducted a flash poll of consumer attitudes. Sixty percent of respondents said brands must take a stand to publicly speak out against racial injustice. CEO Richard Edelman observed, "The results are unequivocal: Americans want brands to step up and play a central role in addressing systemic racism. This is a mandate for brands to act, because consumers will exercise brand democracy with their wallets."
Of course, it is easier to pay lip service, even with a powerful advertising message, than it is to make fundamental change within a business or organization. For example, some observers lauded the Nike campaign I referenced earlier. Others demurred, however, pointing out that the company has key relationships with black athletes and garners substantial business from the African American demographic yet has no blacks on its executive leadership team.
The compelling question for brands is whether they and the marketers behind them are being authentic and sincere in their public claims. Are they examining their own organizations and doing all they can to overcome racial bias and injustice and, for that matter, bias of any kind?
Come to think of it, all of us can ask ourselves the same question.
HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.