How Do People Want Brands to Support the Racial Justice Movement?

July 1, 2020

Ipsos Brand Messaging Racial Justice Jun2020Although struggles for racial justice and equality have been long-standing in the US, the current Black Lives Matter and associated demonstrations (the largest in the US’ history) have bolstered the national discussion about racial justice. What role, if any, do brands play in all of this – and what do people want to see from brands in this current climate? A new report [pdf] from Ipsos finds that more people are considering equality as one of their top factors when thinking about purchasing from a brand.

For nearly one-fifth (17%) of the 1,500 US consumers surveyed, one of the top three factors in deciding whether or not to purchase or engage with a brand in this current climate is equality of opportunity across gender and ethnicity. This is up 35% from just two weeks earlier. The percentage who take this into consideration is higher for young adults aged 18-34-years-old (22%), those that live in urban areas (23%) and for Black Americans (24%).

What do people expect to see from brands at this time? The majority agree that they want to see brands show empathy to those who suffer from discrimination (69%), while 6 in 10 want brand messaging to educate the community about systemic racism. Not only that, but people want brands to show what they have done to increase diversity within their companies (58%), make statements against racism (58%) and call on political figures to enact change (55%).

A similar percentage want to hear that brands are making donations and contributions to organizations fighting racism (53%) and for brands to make pledges about diversity within their own companies (52%). There is a little less support for brands allowing employees time off work to respond to events (38%), despite high-profile instances of this occurring.

Age and race play a significant role when it comes to the expectation of messaging from brands. Across the board, close to twice as many Black Americans agree that they expect brands to share this type of messaging compared to white Americans. And, while the difference between younger adults and older adults isn’t quite as stark, younger adults are more apt to expect brands to take this type of action than those adults ages 35-65.

Another survey by Engine Insights found that people have positive feelings about brands that make contributions to assist the development of underserved communities (66%), require all employees to take training addressing racial sensitivity (61%) and engage in diversity throughout the organization (60%).

There is likely also some desire for brands to take concrete actions using their wallets as a mechanism. To that extent, the World Federation of Advertisers has found that almost one-third of large multinational advertisers are likely to withhold spending on social media platforms such as Facebook due to concerns over their hate speech policies, and another 40% are considering doing so.

Action from the Top

Past research shows that American adults were split on whether they felt CEOs should express their opinion in regards to race relations. Fast-forward three years, and a new report [download page] from Morning Consult shows that more than two-thirds (68%) feel that it’s important for CEOs to address racial inequality in the US.

Indeed, 7 in 10 (69%) Americans say that how CEOs react and express themselves on topics such as Black Lives Matter will permanently affect their decision to buy from their company. This sentiment is even higher among Gen Z (75%) and Millennials (75%).

It’s not just about speaking out against racism. Some 8 in 10 Americans want CEOs to express or reaffirm: their commitment to ensuring that their organizations’ hiring process is equitable (81%); their commitment to fighting racism and discrimination (79%); the steps they are taking to improve social, racial and economic equality (79%); and their organizations’ commitment to promoting diversity, inclusion, equality and advocacy (79%).

Authenticity Counts

While consumers say they want brands to take a stand on social and environmental issues, they tend to be suspicious of motives when brands do so. Essentially, people are increasingly paying attention to whether or not brands are simply paying lip service to these issues.

As such, Ipsos’ survey reveals that more than two-fifths (42%) of respondents say they have looked into the actions, policies and records on diversity and inclusion of the companies whose brands they buy. Once again, a much larger share of young adults (61%), urban dwellers (63%) and Black Americans (68%) say they have done this sort of research into the brands they buy.


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