Black History Month – the good, the bad and the ugly

Food and Drink
October 28, 2020

October marks Black History Month – a period of awareness that recognises the achievements, culture and historical events of those of African and Caribbean descent. With recent movements such as Black Lives Matter, a spotlight has been shone on racial equality, and many brands have been inspired to show their support for black rights through clever campaigns and content.

It’s safe to say not everyone has got it quite right – we take a look at just some of the brands that have hit the headlines recently – the good and the bad.

 

The Good:

TikTok

TikTok, a strong advocate for modern diversity, has promoted Black History Month content on its platform by encouraging users to post content with the hashtag #MyRoots.

The grassroots campaign has so far been viewed by thousands across the world and has encouraged an incredible amount of user-generated content and interaction.

Trevor Johnson, Global Business Marketing Director, TikTok said:

#myroots will honour the contribution made by the black community, the joy our black friends, family and colleagues bring, and look ahead to the future of black talent on TikTok”

 

Bumble

The app many see as the grown-up version of Tinder, Bumble conducted research into how the black community thought love was portrayed by the media and within advertising to see if there were any discrepancies. The results came showed that 79% thought that there was a lack of relatable imagery when it came to promotional content and branding.

To combat this, Bumble launched the #MyLoveIsBlackLove campaign, which shared black British voices being interviewed on how they perceive love and what it means as part of their life. The beautiful content featured prominent black figures including model Jourdan Dunn, Olympic Boxer Nicola Adams, and musician and poet ‘George the Poet’.

 

Royal Mail

In celebration of the achievements of the black community, Royal Mail transformed four iconic postboxes in the UK figure within British black culture and history.

Praising comedian and Comic Relief founder, Lenny Henry, renowned war nurse and British hotel founder, Mary Seacole, footballer and first black army officer, Walter Tull, and cultural artist, Yinka Shonibare, the postboxes were decorated with a QR code that encouraged passersby to read into the individual’s remarkable contributions to the country and to share their stories on their social media channels. The campaign was a great reflection of how experiential and digital PR can work together to successfully raise awareness.

 

The Black Farmer

A brand based on raising money and awareness of under-representation, The Black Farmer is an online shop providing the best of British meats, cheeses, pies, drinks and more. The founder, Jamaican-born BBC food director and producer Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, started his farm in his 40s because of his passion for the British countryside and British food.

To celebrate Black History Month, Wilfred teamed up with black-owned Bristol brewery Dawkins Ales to create a beer and a cider, showcasing what can be achieved in an industry where there are very few people of diverse ethnicities – a perfect pairing!

 

Sainsbury’s

We all recognise the power of celebrity endorsement and influencers in today’s media landscape – after all, they play a major role in determining buying behaviours. Sainsbury’s, however, stuck to their guns and demonstrated how their influence isn’t always welcome.

After the supermarket chain announced it would be marking Black History Month in a tweet shared with its 570,000 followers, the brand called for shoppers to go elsewhere if they did not wish to support an inclusive retailer:

We are proud to celebrate Black History Month together with our black colleagues, customers and communities and we will not tolerate racism. We proudly represent and serve our diverse society and anyone who does not want to shop with an inclusive retailer is welcome to shop elsewhere.”

 

The Bad:

Pure Gym

And then there’s the bad. We couldn’t talk about Black History Month without discussing the recent major mistake by Pure Gym.

The leading fitness facility brand came under fire after advertising a workout entitled ’12 Years of Slave’ which was captioned “Slavery is hard and so is this” on one of its local Facebook pages. Criticised nationally for being ‘tone deaf’ and ‘offensive’, the brand received major backlash and was a prime example that showcased the power of social media. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t positive power.

 

Brands have become increasingly conscious about how they are seen to be using these types of movements – steering clear of tapping into the trend purely for financial gain. Instead, those that have come out on top have been brands that are being recognised for responding to, and contributing to, the overall change towards inclusive beliefs and cultures, proving they are acting to make a real difference.