What’s stopping you building ANTI-RACISM into your brand?

September 23, 2020
Mint line brushstroke

At Brand by Me, we’ve recently launched a new proposition helping organisations and companies build anti-racism into their brands. And we’ve noticed that the same barriers keep coming up. So we’ve written this helpful blog post to help you tackle the barriers and put anti-racism at the heart of your brand.

So what’s stopping you? Here are some common barriers and how to address them.

1. We don’t know where to start

We get it. Tackling something as big as structural racism feels overwhelming. That’s why we created this handy sketchnote with 8 actions you can take to become an antiracist brand. (You can also watch a mini-workshop Collette did on this topic here.

A really great place to start is by listening to your audiences’ lived experiences of racism – your staff, your customers, your clients and even suppliers and partners too. Don’t be tempted to jump to solutions before you’ve done this and don’t expect to find ‘the answer’. Listen actively and without judgement so that you can understand the actions you can take to make the biggest difference.

Finally, look to other brands for inspiration – Uber, National Trust, and Ben and Jerry’s have all made a strong start in making anti-racism a part of their brands. Is their work done? No. Are they perfect as organisations? Of course not. But they are taking meaningful anti-racist action and that’s what matters.

2. We’re worried we’ll get it wrong

Here’s the thing. You may not get it right the first time. And that’s ok. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If you have started by listening to lived experiences of racism, you are unlikely to make a major mistake. Where brands get it very wrong and receive backlash is when they do stuff to look good without putting in the real work. Like L’Oréal putting out a superficial supportive statement when they had fired, Munroe Bergdorf, a brand ambassador a few years previously for speaking out against racism.

And if you do get it very wrong (which if you truly LISTEN first, you won’t), you must apologise unreservedly and unequivocally. Then take meaningful action (not just a token gesture) to address the damage and hurt you have caused. Like L’Oréal did (following the above) by appointing Munroe Bergdorf to sit on their UK Diversity and Inclusion board, as well as donating to the #BlackLivesMatter campaign and Mermaids, a charity who support trans young people. Fear of getting it wrong should not stop you from taking action. Just make sure your actions are genuine, insight-led and seek help if you’re unsure.

3. We have (too many) other priorities right now

That’s why you need to make anti-racism part of your brand. Because rather than being another project, or item on your to-do list, it becomes part of who you are, what you stand for and how you do things on an everyday basis. Making it a priority right now, will also accelerate any internal work you’re doing and increase your impact. Plus people are increasingly scrutinising brands and looking for signs of action on anti-racism. By de-prioritising this now, you risk alienating (and losing) your audiences further down the line.

4. We don’t have the budget

As a friend recently said (on this very topic), ‘Money is a zero-sum game’. Meaning that you do have a budget but you are choosing to spend it elsewhere. So it’s worth reviewing where you are choosing to spend and working out whether you can integrate anti-racism into that activity, or reallocate budget from elsewhere. And even if you don’t have a budget, there are loads of free resources to help you get started. Like our sketchnote, for example. Or this great #BlackLivesMatter guide for Marketers.

5. We don’t want to be seen as racist / associated with structural racism

If this is the case, we have good and bad news for you. The bad news is that your brand is already associated with structural racism. People are looking at your leadership, your board, your suppliers, your messaging, your industry events, your history, your staff, your policies – in fact, anything and everything to do with your brand for evidence of racial inequality. And unless you have been, and are currently making anti-racism part of your brand, they will find it. The good news is that this is not an accusation, it’s a call to action! The resurgence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement this year has brought the issue of structural racism to the fire. But for some of your customers, your staff, your partners, your suppliers, this will not be new news. This is their everyday lived experience. So it’s time for your brand to act versus staying silent and becoming part of the problem.

6. Our audiences might not like it

Because you are reading this, we’re guessing that you are not actively trying to target racists. And given that’s the case, you can’t please everyone. A small (and often vocal) minority won’t like the fact that you are being actively anti-racist as a brand. They may accuse you of being ‘too political’ or say things that are outright racist in response. Ignore them and do it anyway. If this tiny minority threaten to stop buying from you or supporting you, let them. Their voices on Twitter are far louder than their actual buying power. And you can even use the criticism as an opportunity to reiterate your stance, just like building society, Nationwide did recently:

7. We don’t have the expertise

Then talk to Brand by Me! Seriously, we can help. We build brands that drive social change and we are both passionate and experts at helping organisations build anti-racism into their brand. So what’s stopping you from building anti-racism into your brand? By now, your answer should be ‘NOTHING.’ Let’s do this! CONTACT US TODAY TO MAKE ANTI-RACISM PART OF YOUR BRAND