There is no doubt that 2020 is a year of change. It has taken a global pandemic, and some catalytic moments, to wake up the majority to what the few have been campaigning for over decades. The story is changing and brands need to keep up with the narrative or risk becoming a side plot.
Black Lives Matter and Anti-racism has been at the forefront of people’s minds since the graphic death of George Floyd was shared around the global as people watched from their locked down homes. It prompted peaceful protests, and some riots, all to hold the officers to account and raise awareness that institutional racism still very much exists.
It also prompted many brands across all industries to align themselves with the social injustice movement by adding their ‘square’ for #blackouttuesday. However, this commodity activism is being called out amongst consumers, due to the ever-increasing power of social media and influencers, and seen as ‘Optical Ally-ship’.
In the world of information at our fingertips, people care about a company’s ethos and are actively researching for the substance behind the content before embarking on a purchase. Therefore, it’s not enough to be an optical ally; people are looking for consistent commitment to change on elements driving our society.
It may not have filtered through just yet, but this change in society, the waking up of the majority, will influence the buying trends in the markets. The consumer that is in tune with, and driven by, a set of unwavering values is growing.
Brands and businesses need to be committing to internal change across the issues of today – inclusion and sustainability – to future-proof themselves in their markets.
It can be done
There are institutions leading the way. It would come as no surprise that trend powerhouse, Vogue, took a global decision to dedicate their September issue, the issue that usually cements the fashion calendar for the season, to “Activism Now”. Shining a spotlight on the individuals that are changing their world through their voices and their actions. The British version, curated by Editor-in-Chief Edward Enniful, is full of the voices working to change Britain right now – from Marcus Rashford to Liza Bilal and many more.
Additionally, companies such as Nike, gave employees a paid day’s leave on 19th June to celebrate Juneteenth. Also known as Freedom Day, Juneteenth is widely known as the day in America where slaves were freed from emancipation. Before 2020, companies weren’t known to recognise this day as a paid holiday.
But, tangible Inclusion is about more than one diverse characteristic. Over the coming months, Affinity will be sharing a series of posts exploring how brands can move from Optical Ally-ship on social issues into an inclusive cultural change within their organisation. Some of the themes we will explore include the power of unconscious bias, the valuable impact of having diverse teams and where the leaders role comes into play.