It seemed as if 2020 was destined to represent a year of hardship, illness, and death in the wake of a still simmering COVID-19 pandemic – not to mention its impact on the economy. Then, a white police officer in Minnesota was filmed with his knee on the neck of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, who died. That officer, along with three others present, was charged with murder. And a fuse was lit that erupted into street protests which were largely peaceful with some acts of violence in cities around the country.
This scenario – white police officer killing an unarmed black man – is an all-too familiar one here in the United States…but this time, people took to the streets both here and around the world. And a growing list of powerful brands, including a few in our industry, are stepping forward to take a stance on the issue.
See which brands are taking on racism…
Over the last few days, a series of brands have come forward to issue statements on the death of George Floyd and resulting protests. Most of these brands are huge, public companies who feel compelled to make their position known to their employees, customers, and the community at large.
One of the first to take a public stance was Nike. Just five days after the incident, Nike released an ad making their case for change. That ad was titled, For Once, Don’t Do It…a play on their marketing slogan, Just Do It.
For Once, Don’t Do It
The ad says,“For once, don’t do it. Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America. Don’t turn your back on racism. Don’t accept innocent lives being taken from us.”
Advertising Age says that, “The spot, ‘For Once, Don’t Do It,’ encourages people to stop being silent and making excuses, and instead to be part of the change.” You can see the Nike ad at this link…
“Nike has a long history of standing against bigotry, hatred and inequality in all forms. We hope that by sharing this film we can serve as a catalyst to inspire action against a deep issue in our society and encourage people to help shape a better future.”Nike statement on the matter
More Brands Join the Discussion
Since then, a large number of other brands have also come forward to decry systemic racism, including Amazon, Facebook, McDonalds, Microsoft, Netflix, Spotify, YouTube, Disney, and the NFL. Others, like Sony for example, have delayed product launches, cancelled events, and participated in Blackout Tuesday – a day where business as usual was stopped in protest.
Many companies are launching advisory councils (like GM for example), engaging in communications with community leaders (Target), and donating money to social causes related to racial injustice (YouTube $1 million, Facebook $10 million, and many more.)
CTA Calls for ‘Equal Justice’ and ‘Equal Opportunity’
The Consumer Technology Association released a statement attributed to its president and CEO Gary Shapiro. We show it in part below…
“The killing of George Floyd, along with other recent incidents, is heartbreaking and abhorrent. We must move toward equal justice and equal opportunity in our nation. We have come a long way, but we have far to go. Our diversity can and must be our national strength.Gary Shapiro, President & CEO, Consumer Technology Association
“We stand with those fighting racism and will use the power of innovation to educate, strengthen communities and create economic opportunity. We cannot succeed unless we move beyond our legacy of discrimination and fully use the talents of all American people.”
You can see the entire Shapiro statement here…
Best Buy CEO Sets a Plan for Real Change
Perhaps, one of the best examples I’ve seen from our industry is a letter from Corie Barry, the CEO of Best Buy. Based in Minneapolis, MN, Best Buy is located at ground zero for this triggering event and Barry’s ten paragraph letter comes off as heartfelt and sincere.
Barry starts by saying, “We are, I believe, in one of the toughest times in our country’s history, as we continue to battle a deadly pandemic and the resulting economic havoc while, once again, coming face-to-face with the long-term effects of racial injustice. Watching tens of thousands take to the streets to speak out against fear and inhumanity is, on one hand, inspiring for the commitment it represents and, on the other, heartbreaking for its profound need.”
Where to Start? Start Here, Best Buy CEO Says
But where do we start to address this? “For me, it starts with seeing the situation for what it is, acknowledging these experiences for what they are and, quite simply, apologizing for not doing enough. As important, it includes committing the company I lead down a path of systemic, permanent change in as many ways as we can find.”
With that, Barry laid out a series of steps the company would implement to pursue real, concrete change. Other companies have taken some heat for not delineating the actual steps they would take to make a positive contribution to change, making some of these efforts look much like a PR ploy. Best Buy avoided that fate by offering concrete steps.
You can read the entire Best Buy statement here: Page 1… Page 2
Yamaha Says ‘We Have the Power to Come Together’
Finally, we saw this email marketing piece from Yamaha Music (which includes their AV electronics division), with a statement that both issues a strong condemnation of racism and seeks to turn towards optimism by saying, in part, “That we have the power to be better.”
“Dear (insert brand name here),
“I have no interest in your or your employees’ views on political and social issues. I do business with you because you provide a good product at a good price. Please stay in your lane. If you continue to virtue signal with your opinions on matters unrelated to your product, be assured that I will take my business elsewhere.”