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Global brands on a journey against racism 

While we usually start our newsletters with a jokey one-liner, we feel that we must open June’s edition in a more serious tone. With Black Lives Matter protests taking place across the globe, June 2020 has been a significant month that needs to be remembered. 

These past few weeks have sparked lots of conversation in the marketing industry, with many brands and agencies seeking to educate themselves on systemic racism, and pledging to make change. And beyond marketing itself, companies are having to look at their inner workings as there is still so much to be done. 

Here at Freedman, we recognise that we can do more for the black community, and can further improve our workplace inclusivity. We are taking our time to analyse our internal situation so that we can put together a concrete action plan that will make lasting change. We have taken the conscious decision to only communicate our plan once it’s been thoroughly discussed and agreed upon by everyone within Freedman. 

Our news stories this month focus on how global brands have responded to BLM. As you will see, these brands, from across various countries and regions, are at different stages of their journey. Some have embraced the cause long before it was in the headlines, and others are just starting to make needed changes. 

Twitter gets political while social media’s under fire 

From moderating Trump to permanently banning the far-right activist Katie Hopkins, Twitter appears to be getting political. To show their support for BLM, Twitter amplified the voices of the movement via large billboards in a number of protest cities in the US. This campaign used the tweets of real people as they reflected on their experience of systemic racism. And yet, Twitter along with other social media channels, still have a long way to go when it comes to tackling racism and discrimination. Due to the way they operate, these platforms all too often allow hateful voices to rank highly. This has prompted huge brands including Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Levi’s and Diageo to boycott social platforms in order to put pressure on social media companies to take stricter measures against hateful content. 

See Twitter’s OOH campaign here. More on the social media boycott here.

Not so Fair & Lovely

Unilever has donated over $1M through its subsidiary brands to causes against racial injustice. However, Unilever came under scrutiny for their brand Fair & Lovely which makes skin-lightening products for Asian markets. 2 separate petitions were launched demanding that Unilever change the brand name or close it down. Unilever have now confirmed that they will alter the brand’s name and will no longer use references to ‘whitening’ or ‘lightening’ in their comms. However, many question the very existence of these products, and feel that a simple name-change is not enough. 

Find out more here

Ben & Jerry’s remains activist at heart

Since 2016, Ben & Jerry’s has been actively engaged with the Black Lives Matter movement, urging customers to get educated on the issue of systemic racism and to help make change. In response to the death of George Floyd, Ben & Jerry’s released an impactful statement calling on Americans to ‘dismantle white supremacy’. The brand then released steps showing Americans how to do just that by engaging directly in politics. On Juneteenth, the brand’s chief executive prompted customers to support the campaign to defund the police. Of course, it is worth remembering that Ben & Jerrys is owned by Unilever.

Read the full story here.

Bumble brings BLM and Pride together

While many Pride campaigns have been put on pause, Bumble has combined both Pride and BLM to create a campaign for change. The dating app turned to its users, asking them to nominate LGBTQ+ organisations which support BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color). The aim is for Bumble to donate $5000 to each of the chosen organisations. Additionally, Bumble has donated $1M to multiple charities and funds, ranging from legal defence to black women’s health. Bumble also took part in the #ShareTheMic campaign, passing their platform to black women in order for their voices to be heard.

Read in more detail here.

A wake up call for fashion and beauty

L’Oréal made headlines this month after Munroe Bergdorf accused the brand of hypocrisy following L’Oréal’s release of a Black Lives Matter statement on their social media. The model was fired 3 years prior for speaking up about racial violence. In the wake of Bergdorf’s comments, other users started to urge fashion and beauty brands to make their runways, photoshoots, boardrooms and creative teams far more diverse. Vogue has also come under scrutiny for their under-representation of the black community. Student Salma Noor started the #VogueChallenge, posting a mock Vogue cover featuring herself, and shared it with the caption ‘being black is not a crime’. The hashtag has been used over 100,000 times on Instagram. 

Find out more about L’Oreal’s response here, and the #VogueChallenge here

Nike looks inward to improve diversity 

While many Nike campaigns have championed black athletes, the company’s CEO John Donahoe admitted that Nike needed to do more internally for its black employees who felt “a disconnect” between the external and internal brand experience. This disconnect became all the more evident with Nike’s reactionary post to BLM urging people to no longer ignore racism. Nike are now addressing their internal issues, including launching a diversity education programme, pledging to ensure that minority groups are properly represented and making June 19th – the oldest known day celebrating the end of slavery – a paid holiday for employees.

Read the full story here

We hope this month’s roundup has provided a picture of how brands and companies are responding to BLM, and we will keep communicating any developments in our future roundup blogs. 

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