Brands in the USA are taking a stand on racial & gender issues but why are South African brands quiet?

taking a stand on racial & gender issues
Cool group of people, woman and man with index finger on lips, ask to be quiet. Silence and secret concept

Brands in the USA are taking a stand and they are supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement. George Floyd’s death in the USA sparked outrage and protests that really shook the country. And brands started looking at their own behavior and started taking a stand again racial injustice. But in South Africa a lot of brands shy away from taking a stand. I am curious why?

We live in a country that is possibly the most inequal country and very sensitive to debates around race, apartheid, white privilege, gender inequality, GBV etc. I was curious to see which brands would take up the issue of Black Lives Matter in South Africa, but I did not come across any who did. Perhaps they were there but I may have missed them. I was not shocked. Many brands are just too afraid of the backlash given the past we have in SA. I also would be too afraid of upsetting the establishment. 

There are some brands that have taken a stand against GBV – namely Carling Black Label and Joko Tea. I would love to see more brands take a stand for some cause – but of course it must part of the DNA of the brand.

But my sense is most brand teams don’t know how to go about this. Or if they do, they are as I say too afraid of upsetting the establishment and going against the company culture. What should brand do:

  1. Understand who your target market is – are they going to appreciate the stance? Do your homework – get consumer testing.
  2. Look at your positioning and decide whether your brand positioning would be able to own a challenger mentality? Can it be part of your brand strategy and narrative?
  3. Check what your employees would feel (not just c -suite, everyone from C-suite to the people who are at junior levels). The sales teams are often at the cold face of selling – ask for their inputs.
  4. Work with people who understand the issues clearly – get expert advice from civil societies and subject matter experts.
  5. Take time thinking about how and when you would do it, it should look well-considered and thought through. Timing is critical.
  6. Lastly, be authentic about it, so don’t talk about something that you as a company don’t believe in or practising (e.g. talking about gender equity when your own house is not in order)
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