So how do brands navigate this landscape? The most dangerous place is to remain ‘neutral,’ according to the article. Frank Cooper III, BlackRock’s CMO says it is easier for firms to take a stance on environmental and governance issues, which are now less controversial. However, ‘Social’ issues are ‘incredibly messy” because they involve wealth inequality, labor rights, racial justice, and more.
Firms that are neutral will be in the unenviable position of getting criticism from “both sides,” Cooper says. “And so I think the way forward is to find your sense of purpose: why you exist, how you want to contribute to the world, how you want to advance humanity, and stand in that truth. And that should be your compass, as a marketer, but also as a leader of a company,” he said, according to the article.
Firms that haven’t previously taken external stands on issues such as equality for African Americans, Hispanic Americans or LGBTQ individuals, its best to start internally, according to Alexis Kerr, Cadillac’s head of multicultural marketing. Kerr says a lot of advocacy starts internally—and expand externally from there. She says the first thing to do is to listen to employees.
Kerr noted that in addition to issuing an external statement in support of BLM, Cadillac had fireside style chats with executives during the 2020 focus on racial justice. This led to a mentoring program and unconscious bias training.
Kerr also noted that working with Spike Lee’s ad agency, which Cadillac has partnered with for a decade, helps them take a 360-degree approach that helps lead to change.
It is important to take a step back when major events happen and listen before rushing into a campaign. “I think we have to shift to a mindset that we are developing brands that serve people. Brands that serve,” Cooper says. “Many marketers start from the premise of ‘I have a story to tell, and I’m going to tell you my story, and you’re going to listen… but if we flip it on its head and we serve people… you can deliver value to people and enhance their experience.”