65% of Americans think brands should take a stand against racism, study says

Dive Brief:

  • Sixty-five percent of Americans think brands should take a stand against racism and 46% feel that such actions will lead to a credible change, per a new report that market research firm Piplsay shared with Marketing Dive.
  • The report also found that 61% of Americans are not completely certain that removing racist brand mascots or labels will make a huge difference, with 31% of Americans saying companies should get rid of racial bias within their organization first.
  • More than half (56%) of consumers are most willing to buy from brands that speak out against racism, with Gen Zers and millennials overindexing at 60%. The report is based on a survey of 30,452 Americans.

Dive Insight:

Ever since protests began in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, some brands have taken a stand, speaking out against racism and supporting Black people in their advertising. This latest report from Piplsay suggests that consumers expect brands to stand up against racism in marketing and will support brands that do so, but have differing opinions on what actions brands should take.

Rather than being consistently vocal in brand communications (18%), eliminating racist undertones from brand identities (13%) or donating to anti-racism causes (12%), consumers want brands to eliminate racial bias from their own organizations (31%). This could explain why certain Black Lives Matter-related ads have been seen as more exploitative than empowering. For example, while McDonald’s named several victims of violence in a Twitter video, it also has faced criticism for not supporting its Black employees during the pandemic.

As for rethinking packaging that features people of color, more people said the symbolic act would not help make a difference (34%) or were not sure (27%) than those who said yes (39%). This underscores the difficulty that CPG brands like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s will have sunsetting these brand assets.

While taking real action around racial justice may have its own challenges, speaking up against racism leads to purchase intent, especially with younger consumers that have consistently said they want brands to support causes like Black Lives Matter.

The Piplsay report follows other reports from Ace Metrix that not all advertisements that speak out against racism have been viewed favorably. In the wake of protests, Nike was the first to create an anti-racist marketing message with its “For Once, Don’t Do It”​ ad which inverted the brand’s “Just Do it Slogan,” to call on people not to ignore racism. The ad was perceived as empowering by 60% of consumers, but some consumers questioned the intent behind using such a message to sell shoes, per Ace Metrix.

Ads by P&G and McDonald’s created ads supporting Black Lives Matters which were also found to be empowering but the messages were also seen as exploitative, per a separate Ace Metrix study. But not all ads are raising exploit signals when brands take on messaging that supports Black communities. The NBA, Papa John’s and Sprite seem to have found the right mix of support for the Black Lives Matter movement without striking the exploit signal, per the latest Ace Metrix study. These ads avoided lecturing audiences and instead demonstrated corporate responsibility.

Culturally-relevant subject matter has shown to perform better when brands show how they are making real changes or taking steps to make a difference. Piplsay’s report seems to follow this as well, with 31% of consumers wanting to see action within an organization before advertising that speaks out against racism, as consumers look to brands to put their money where their mouth is.

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