The events of 2020 set in motion one of the greatest revolutions of the century. The worldwide lockdown caused by the deadly pandemic only added fuel to the fire.
2020 has not been the year for playing around. Everyone is held accountable for everything, it’s been a very refreshing and much needed change. So what does this entail for businesses? Nothing bad, as long as they have been unproblematic and uncontroversial with regard to their actions as a business. Many controversial brands have faced the consequences to their insensitive branding, which led to the majority of the businesses around the world to become educated on the subject and be more careful in curating their brand.
Start a conversation
Well-intentioned marketing can sometimes become problematic if the intent behind it is misinterpreted by the audience.
When in doubt, appeal to the public. It is vital to conduct a thorough research prior to making any marketing decisions. Market research does not only aid in creating a healthy brand image but also lets the audience know the brand cares about its customers and is aware of the social issues. Audience testing allows a business to ensure its target audience agrees with the business’s activity in question. This may prove to be slightly costly but it will definitely shield the business from any decisions which may lead to failure.
Right your wrongs
Acknowledging the wrongs committed by your business is the first in many steps towards redeeming yourself in the eyes of the community. It’s not so much about adapting with the time as much as it is about having a moral compass and knowing right from wrong.
“As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers’ expectations.” -Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America.
The Washingtons Redskins, Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Buttersworth’s and Uncle Ben’s are just some of the companies to alter their offensive logos and mascots in order to shield themselves from the immense criticism they have faced due to them being extremely racially stereotypical and insensitive towards some minorities.
While many brands attempted to fix their mistakes and succeeded in putting the past behind them, not all brands were so lucky. A highly controversial brand formerly known as Fair and Lovely, newly Glow and Lovely; received a lot of heat even after changing their distinctly insensitive name in the wake of the gruesome events of 2020. Following the change in the name, people quickly took to the internet to remind the brand that this does not make up for the decades of emotional damage that was inflicted while they were heavily enforcing the ideology of a ‘superior’ skin shade through their products and advertisements.
Ignorance vs Apathy
At this moment in time we are blessed with endless amounts of resources which are always within reach. Protests after protests of minorities pleading for their rights, brands taking initiative towards educating their community in hopes of a safer and non-toxic society. Considering all the knowledge which is well within our reach; is it still ignorant to be insensitive, or simply apathetic?
Culture appropriation vs appreciation
Majority of the offensive branding, such as the ones carried out by the aforementioned companies all have one thing in common in terms of their inappropriate marketing: profiting off of oppressed cultures and minorities.
Do not let anyone tell you that there is a fine line between appropriation and appreciation. It is completely possible to pay homage to other cultures and their artistry without crossing the line into outright exploiting and capitalizing on a culture for one’s own personal gain.
In light of recent events, many social issues such as racial inequality and discrimination towards genders, sexual orientation and religions have been everyone’s main focus (as they should be); and of course discussions regarding these matters have taken the internet by a storm. People have come forward and shared their experiences with certain brands regarding their unequal treatment of customers among other injustices. Along with that, people are noticing patterns of discriminatory behaviour in terms of lack of diversity in the human resources and marketing campaigns carried out by these companies.Every move made by businesses nowadays is constantly under the spotlight. Cancel culture is the equivalent of brand deathrow, and it actually works!
Witnessing so many brands finally getting called out for their unethical and inappropriate marketing is truly liberating. Ignorance, in fact, is not bliss.