Rising to the moment: A roadmap for brands amid social unrest

Get a deeper contextual understanding of this pivotal moment, and consider what relevancy looks like in the future.
26 June 2020
Man raising a fist
Valeria Piaggio
Valeria
Piaggio

Senior Vice President, Head of Identity and Inclusion Insights at Kantar, Chicago, Illinois, US

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If one thing is certain in the immediate aftermath of the racial justice protests currently roiling the United States, it’s that the world has changed. No longer will it be acceptable for brands to act in a well-intentioned, yet oblivious manner about systemic inequality that affects the lives and livelihood of ethnic and cultural minorities.

These changes in the American zeitgeist may seem daunting for brand marketers. But over the past decade, U.S. MONITOR’s Identity & Inclusion practice has been helping brand marketers better understand the key dynamics, priorities, and passions of high-growth diverse segments in a rapidly shifting culture. In response to the developments of the past month, we’ve curated a collection of U.S. MONITOR’s best, most relevant foundational work in this area that not only articulates the roots of the rage that so many people are feeling today, but, more importantly, provides a roadmap for managing this critical “Do Moment” for brands.

Our curation of this foundational work, called Rising to the Moment: A Roadmap for Brands Amid Social Unrest, discusses the five biggest polycultural trends that have brought us to this point in time. A review of these five trends enables a deeper contextual understanding of this pivotal moment and inspire brands to think about what relevancy looks like going forward. These trends include:

1. We live in a polycultural America

Diversity has reached a tipping point in the U.S. America has moved away from multiculturalism, in which multicultural groups were peripheral to the main culture, to polyculturalism. In this new paradigm, diverse cultures aren’t competitors in American culture so much as they are agents within it. But, this is no polytopia. Diverse groups coexist, interact, in some cases blend and as we’ve seen of late, collide.

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Source: 2019 U.S. MONITOR

2. Inequities remain a barrier for consumers – and brands

Despite their growing size, diverse consumer groups still face unequal access in education, employment, and the marketplace. Kantar’s Opportunity Gap Index reveals diverse kids are growing up in homes that lack access to critical resources, creating more disparities and disadvantages for these children. Brands must act to close these gaps and secure the wellbeing of their future consumers by starting in their own space — whether that is in financial services, real estate, automotive, or their own workforce.

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OGI measures the opportunity gap that exists for specific groups by identifying the percentage of people who lack full employment, higher education, credit, transportation, and have low income. In the case of youth, OGI measures the opportunity provided to children based on the family they are born into.

*Kantar 2019 U.S. MONITOR data for parents who are not employed full time; have a HH income of under $35K OR whose completed studies are high school or less; AND do not have a credit card OR do not have a car.

3. Brands must play a real role in enacting social change

The question is not whether brands should participate in social change, but how. In 2015, we listed the four most important social issues for consumers, and it is clear that “race issues” remains as important today as it was five years ago. Consumers today are looking towards brands to not only support the causes they care about, but also play a role in bringing tangible, positive change. This is what we call the Era of the Public. Brands must assume a more public role, and the expectation is that brands will deliver not just better stuff for a better self but for a better society, too.

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4. Before stepping in, brands need cultural intelligence

Reaching diverse consumers in the right way requires cultural intelligence. Without it, brands risk making the usual mistakes companies have made in the past – such as Cultural Appropriation – which alienate the very audiences they intend to entice. In order to show their brand understands ethnic minorities’ culture in a deep, nuanced and respectful way, marketers first need to gain insight themselves into a group’s mindset, culture and trends.

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5. Brands need to set their path to be color brave

Being a color brave brand is about actions, not statements. Actions that should start within a company’s human resources and then continue in the marketplace and society.

In 2014, we introduced the concept of being a color brave brand to respond to the needs and demands of diverse high-growth segments and consequently, generate business growth. We also provided specific guidelines on how to be color brave savvy and avoid audience backlash.

So how do you gauge your consumer group’s desire for woke and inclusive marketing and business practices? In 2019 we developed a tool – the Brand Bravery Benchmark – to quantitatively identify an audience’s brand bravery expectations and provide data that will facilitate strategic decisions on brand communication and social responsibility.

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To download a copy of A Roadmap for Brands Amid Social Unrest, please complete the form below.
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