Brands: approach George Floyd anniversary with caution

A Campaign US poll shows people are divided on whether brands should respond to the anniversary of Floyd’s murder.

On the one year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, companies continue to navigate the challenges of speaking out on social justice. 

Last year, following Floyd’s murder by police officer Derek Chauvin, brands including Target and Microsoft donated millions of dollars to social justice causes. Bank of America pledged more than $1 billion over four years to address racial and economic inequities, recently raising that pledge to $1.25 billion in five years. McDonald’s, Nike and Estee Lauder made statements of solidarity with the Black community. 

Responses to these actions on social media, however, are skewed, with some people feeling the statements were “performative,” and calling out inequitable practices upheld by these same companies.

A year after Floyd’s death sparked Black Lives Matter protests across the country, momentum seems to be waning. Donation processing company Benevity, for example, saw the percentage of donations to social justice organizations drop to 5% of overall donations this year, down from nearly half in June 2020.

In adland, agencies that made commitments to improving diversity in their workforces are still facing criticism for not doing enough. The conversation has migrated over to media, where companies including GM and McDonald’s are being called out and sued, respectively, for discriminating against diverse-owned media companies with their investment strategies. 

Despite the delicateness of the situation, some brands are choosing to speak out. The NBA, for example, made a statement remembering George Floyd, and calling on the U.S. Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would ban chokeholds and end qualified immunity for police officers, among other reforms.

For those that have not yet spoken out on the subject, the question lingers on whether they should. 

Perhaps a reflection of how divisive the issue is, Campaign US readers have different opinions on the topic. Some respondents believe brands should speak out only if they actively support Black Lives Matter, while others maintain it is simply not their place.

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