BLM and Brand Activism

Traditionally, commercial brands have preferred to stay away from political discussions. Now, they start to break the silence.

“If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

— — Desmond Tutu

In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the subsequent reinvigoration of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests around the globe, global brands such as Netflix, Colgate, and Zara have promptly expressed solidarity with the movement. The brand activism we see today, where brands take stances on socio-political issues, would be considered almost a taboo not so long ago. It is fair to say that brand activism is a rather new phenomenon.

From Apolitical to Be-political

One factor that is widely credited to the change is the rise of social media. This platform has completely transformed the orthodox relationship between businesses and its customers. Arguably, customers have increasingly become empowered by social media, as it enables them to voice their opinions more easily from things ranging from complaints to praises. Businesses, on the other hand, deem social media as a channel where they can speak directly to their customers. Social media not only enhances businesses’ PR strategies by providing a platform for customer services, but it also empowers the businesses through “humanizing” them. Brands’ value and vision are reflected in each of their post, response, and Instagram story. People use social media to communicate with their family and friends; they would expect brands to do the same, namely, using sincere and engaging daily languages. PR statements published or embedded via social media are no longer cold and distant utterances. Instead, just like most humans, brands have evolved to hold up to their core value and voice supports for social matters. What’s more, as the so-called legal persons, brands err like their natural counterparts (*smoothly inserts law student jokes*). Brands’ responses to their mistakes or controversies often affect how customers view the businesses, and whether they continue to buy from them in the future.

Take beauty startup Glossier for example. They use social media to communicate their policies and interact with their customers.

Just for the Gram? Brand Activism Versus Performative Activism

Christian Louboutin’s Nudes collection S/S 2016
Photo by Rachael Henning on Unsplash

What’s Next?

Photo by Sushil Nash on Unsplash

It’s a “safe haven” for all those who want to speak up, break their echo chambers.

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