Brands Take Concrete Action in the Fight for Inclusivity 

By Beth Hurrle  | 

Nearly a year has passed since the killing of George Floyd reignited a national Black Lives Matter movement and started a global conversation about racial inequality. More recently, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was fatally shot during a traffic stop in Minnesota. As those responsible for Floyd’s death face trial and protestors unite in solidarity against Wright’s death, many brands are doing their part to promote inclusivity by making changes to product names or logos that have long been viewed as problematic. Case in point: PepsiCo changed the name of its Aunt Jemima brand to the Pearl Milling Company, while Hasbro dropped the “Mr.” from its Potato Head toys to make them more gender-neutral. Such actions resonate well with consumers. According to a recent survey from market research firm Piplsay, 49 percent of consumers are in favor of the current trend toward brand activism. What’s more, 38 percent of respondents expect more from brands now than they did last summer, when Piplsay reported that 65 percent of Americans believed brands should take a stand against racism. The stakes are high. Here’s how marketers are responding.

Taking Real Action
Unilever’s Dove brand launched Project #ShowUs in 2020 by creating a comprehensive collection of over 10,000 images for advertisers and media groups, all of which paint a more inclusive picture of what beauty looks like. This year, the personal care brand continued that initiative with their “It’s On Us” campaign, which “hacked” the ad industry from the inside by sending photos of real models from Project #ShowUs to international casting calls. A message accompanied those shots: Should a real model be chosen for an ad, Unilever will cover the appearance fee. Through this effort, Unilever put their money where their mouth is, affirming their commitment to invest in diversity and inclusivity while supporting women, 70 percent of whom report not feeling accurately represented in media and advertising. Haagen-Dazs likewise launched a recent multichannel #ThatsDazs campaign that will unfold via television, print, digital, social, out-of-home and public relations efforts over the next three years. The effort aims to support diversity among creators with a $1.5 million pledge. Creation of content will be spearheaded by Emmy-award winning writer and producer Lena Waithe, the powerhouse behind TV shows and The Chi and films like Queen & Slim.

Appealing to Latinx
A gender study from Dentsu and SeeHer recently revealed that Hispanic and Latinx women want “brands to act as advocates and partners for gender equality and are actively looking for role models.” Perhaps in response to such important revelations, Acura launched a multichannel campaign in promotion of its new 2022 MDV crossover SUV that’s targeted specifically to Hispanic women. Called “Working Mom,” the effort includes 30-second spots in both English and Spanish running on networks like Telemundo and Univision and streaming digitally on platforms including People en Espanol and Mamas Latinas. Hispanic consumers also skew younger than the general US population, with Pew Research Center reporting that 61 percent of Latinos were 35 or younger in 2016. That means they tend to gravitate toward social media, with 51 percent of Hispanic consumers being active Instagram users, compared to 37 percent of the general US public. In response, Acura generated video content specifically for Instagram and Facebook. This important demographic comprises one of our country’s fastest-growing populations—and one motivated by advancements in equality. Dentsu and SeeHer report that 90 percent of Hispanic and Latinx women were significantly more likely than white women to name gender equality a “very important” personal issues.

Creating New Opportunities
Combatting bias and misrepresentation are essential components in the fight for racial equality. With “Widen the Screen,” a comprehensive content creation and talent development platform, Procter & Gamble aims to level the playing field for Black creatives working in the advertising, film and TV industries. A recent study from McKinsey & Company found that Hollywood potentially loses up to $10 billion in revenue each year by not greenlighting more Black-led projects. P&G perhaps hopes to change that, starting with their eponymous anthem film that premiered during the 2020 NAACP Image Awards. Brought to life by a team comprised of mostly Black creators, the spot attempts to debunk common stereotypes while portraying a more “holistic view of Black life.” Additional efforts will include investments in Black-owned companies, plus support of initiatives that provide mentorship opportunities for minorities.

Though much work remains to be done in the fight for inclusivity, 58 percent of consumers report that brand activism has affected their purchasing decisions or impressions of a brand, according to Piplsay. Consumers want real change, which marketers are now poised to provide.

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