Ben and Jerry's Black Lives Matter support Twitter statement which is referenced in the article was found through Nuvi's platform. A dark blue image is its background. Three cylinders stand behind the post and to the left. Two are light blue and the other is the same shade as the background.
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Responding in Times of Crisis: Analyzing Brands’ Statements in Response to BLM


It has become a cliche to say we’re living in unprecedented times, but it continues to be the reality of our situation as protests calling for justice for George Floyd spread across America while the Coronavirus pandemic has no end in sight. Widespread discussion on social media about George Floyd and the larger issues of police brutality, racism, and the Black Lives Matter movement has accompanied the protests, as you’ve probably noticed on both your business and personal social feeds. Almost every big-name brand or company, from Apple to Zappos, has issued a statement pledging their support to #BlackLivesMatter. 


The Beginning: Blackout Tuesday and the Music Industry

How did normally-apolitical brands get caught up in this? #TheShowMustBePaused was a hashtag started by two young black women in the music industry, Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang. Thomas and Agyemang called for their peers in the music industry to stop business as usual for one day and reflect on the ways that white industry executives exploit black talent. This day of reflection was set to take place on June 2, 2020.


News of the movement rapidly spread as people and brands outside of the music industry vowed to participate in a silent day of reflection as well. #TheShowMustBePaused mutated into #BlackOutTuesday, the flood of black squares that probably made its way onto your feed. #BlackOutTuesday was intended to be a day on social platforms for allies to the Black Lives Matter movement to show solidarity (represented by posting a black square) and cease posting “as normal” in order to spread information about the movement, the protests, and George Floyd. 


A good idea in theory, right? But just as quickly as it appeared, #BlackOutTuesday began to draw criticism. Some people said silent reflection wasn’t enough—supporters should be donating, sharing information, and having conversations about racism with their friends and families. Additionally, activists argued, the flood of black squares appearing in the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on Instagram was making it more difficult to share information about the movement and upcoming events.


As debates about the efficacy of different social media trends raged on, many brands made statements expressing support of the ideas behind #BlackOutTuesday—solidarity, equality, commitment to antiracism, and being better allies in the future. In response to Thomas and Agyemang, the “big three” major record labels (Warner, Sony, and Universal) all posted statements to social media declaring that they stand with the Black community and would take the day to reflect. 

This tweet reads: Republic Records says we had to take a moment of self-reflection to see how we can make the most impactful and immediate change. This initiative should have been done a long time ago, but we are working diligently to take the first step in holding ourselves accountable. The tweet image lists their mission statement, value statement, and goals as it relates to racial equality. The reply by LOST/ONLY reads Have you donated?
This tweet by billboard reads artists from all corners of the music industry are calling on labels, streaming services, and other corporate entities to contribute to the cause of racial justice.

But their audiences still weren’t satisfied. Even high-profile celebrities like Grammy-winning musician The Weeknd called on the major labels (along with streaming giants Spotify and Apple Music) to take public actions that back up their words. The Weeknd (real name: Abel Tesfaye) posted a public message on Instagram addressed to “fellow respected industry partners and execs” urging them to “go big and public” with their donations to the community, alongside receipts for $500,000 of charitable contributions to organizations focused on racial justice.

This Instagram post's image is all black except for the names and logos of Universal, Sony, Warner, Spotify, and Apple Music. The caption of the post by theweeknd reads To my fellow respected industry partners and execs- no one profits off of black music more than the labels and streaming services. I gave yesterday and I urge you to go big and public with yours this week. It would mean the world to me and the community if you can join us.
Image Source


 Shortly after, Sony and Warner committed to donating $100 million each, and Universal pledged $25 million. They started to see supportive statements return from artists and fans. 

This tweet by DeVotchKa reads Millions of music industry folks posted black squares last Tuesday w/ hashtags- alternatively, Universal Audio donated 100% of their proceeds to @NAACP and @eji_org to the tune of $335k. we happen to use @UAudio gear, but not endorsed. That's what solidarity looks like.
This tweet by Brad Murphy reads Warner Music to donate $100 million to social justice organizations. Superb. #musicbusiness.


This brings us back to where we are today. Almost every major brand and corporation made some form of a statement on social media, to varying receptions. In this post, we’ll analyze the public responses to different brands’ statements or actions across industries with tweets found and selected from Nuvi’s monitors—the good, the bad, and the ugly, and show you what your brand can learn from others’ successes or mistakes.


Lego

Lego’s statement started off strong. On June 3, the toy manufacturer pledged to donate $4 million to racial equality and children’s education on the topic. 

This tweet by LEGO reads We stand with the Black community against racism and inequality. There is much to do. We will donate $4 million to organizations dedicated to supporting Black children and educating all children about racial equality. trihex replies DAMN! now that's what I call putting your money where your mouth is. Phenomenal! Can't wait to hear more. JP also replies and says Probably the first company I've seen include actual action in their words? Bout to step on some Lego


The company was praised for taking an action that aligned with their statement, rather than making a statement and moving on with business as usual. 

This tweet by Mae says BLM reads Holy shit LEGO donated 4 million to Black charities and they pulled all LEGO police sets from the shelves.


A tweet expressing positive surprise at the strength of Lego’s actions garnered 1.3 million likes and thousands of supportive comments.

Mae says BLM posts another two tweets that read okay so apparently I was misinformed they didn't pull them from the shelves they just stopped advertising them. my bad sorry.


But Lego’s action beyond their donation was confusing to some fans. 

This series of tweets go as follows: LEGO says We've seen incorrect reports saying we've removed some LEGO sets from sale. To be clear, that is not the case and reports otherwise are false. Our intention was to temporarily pause digital advertising in response to events in the US. We hope this clears things up. Tracy Beanz replies But that isn't what your correspondence said. She shared an image of the memo. After a long list of products are words in bold that say Product Removal


A memo from the Lego affiliate team was published. According to the Lego Group account, the memo was supposed to request a temporary halt to digital advertising in honor of #BlackOutTuesday and in light of the general political unrest in the US. 

This Twitter conversation reads: Lego says We've seen incorrect reports saying we've removed some LEGO sets from sale. To be clear, that is not the case and reports otherwise are false. Our intention was to temporarily pause digital advertising in response to events in the US. We hope this clear things up. A Davis replies I, for one, will NEVER buy another LEGO for my kids. We have over 10,000 LEGOS. Not one more from a company that will not show its support our police who risk their lives everyday. Sickening! Yokai Props #larpersforBLM says You can still respect police and accept that they've been mistreating our fellow Americans. Saying cops murdering folk has to end doesn't mean you're betraying things. Honestly one of the hallmark American things to do with the constitution is to question authority to see it fair

Unfortunately, many Lego’s fans were upset in spite of the clarification, and arguments followed in the comments. 


Lego made a strong and well-received initial statement with a commitment to education. But their statement didn’t clearly outline all of the steps they were taking. An unanticipated publication of a memo intended for their advertisers caused confusion for their customers. Lego stepped in quickly to clear the air, but some customers were already upset.


Bon Appétit 

Conde Nast, owned food publication Bon Appétit, was quick to speak on George Floyd’s death on social media, with an Instagram post on May 31 where they committed to featuring more black-owned restaurants, speaking out on social issues, and encouraged followers to donate to the ACLU and NAACP.

Bon Appetit's Instagram post shows a black image with white words that read Food has always been political. The caption with the post reads: Here at BA, we're often talking about recipes, cooking, techniques, and emerging restaurants. But we also understand that food is inherently political. Look no further than the recent pandemic, which we documented in our daily Restaurant Diaries. And as food businesses across the country stand in solidarity with George Floyd and others killed before him, our mandate could not be more clear. In the days and weeks to come, you'll see more stories from restaurant owners and staff at the front lines of these protests. We'll be spotlighting Black-owned food businesses in cities nationwide. And you'll see us tackling more of the racial and political issues at the core of the food world. In the...


The post was generally well-received, as they spoke about the issue early on and pledged to make changes to their business to be more inclusive. But the story doesn’t stop here. Thanks to social media detectives, it quickly became apparent that this statement wasn’t in line with the values the brand had shown in the past. 

This blog post that's tweet by Variety is tited Conde Nast's Bon Appetit allegedly pays only white editor for videos, Image of EIC Adam Rapoport in Brown Face Surfaces

Photos of Bon Appétit’s Editor in a racially insensitive costume surfaced, and the personalities featured in the channel’s popular cooking videos began to speak out on their pay gap

This tweet's image is gray with black words that read I've been pushed in front of video as a display of diversity. In reality, currently only white editors are paid for their video appearances. None of the people of color have been compensated. The caption by Sarah Manavis reads In case, you've missed it: Not only is Sohla one of the only front facing Bon Appetit editors to denounce EIC Adam Rapoport doing brown face, apparently only white BA editors are paid for their video appearances. Here's her Instagram Story just now. Sarah replies to herself As others have also pointed out: 50k USD in New York for THAT JOB couple with zero video compensation is fucking insane.


Employees of Bon Appétit called for their editor to step down in response to these issues, and he eventually agreed to resign.


Bon Appétit’s initial statement actually led to more controversy for the brand, because it wasn’t in line with their actions in the past. This highlights the importance of considering all possible audience reactions before making a post and performing a thorough background check before speaking on social media. 


On June 15th, Bon Appétit posted a list of things they’ve done to address racism and biases at Bon Appétit and Epicurious in place of their normal Letter from the Editor. The publication pledged to use that space to keep consumers updated on the changes they are making to both their company culture and their content to create a more equitable environment. Commenters were skeptical, as trust isn’t won back overnight, and requested more information on the specifics. They may be fighting an uphill battle, but with accountability and well-documented, concrete action, Bon Appétit may be on their way to redemption in the eyes of their audience. 


Ben & Jerry's

So who did get it right? Popular Ice Cream brand Ben and Jerry’s has always been outspoken about social justice, so their fans knew what to expect. 

A tweet by Ben and Jerry's reads To achieve justice, we don't need just thoughts and prayers- we need education and action. The below thread offers some ways to learn about our country's history, its impact on the present, and the underlying conditions that led to the murder of George Floyd.


And their statement delivered. The ice cream company posted a thread with several tweets, complete with educational resources and the progressive verbiage that has been incorporated into their brand.

This twitter comment thread to the previous post goes as follows. Jimmy Croda says you guys are one the few large corporations that I believe when you make statements like this because your actions over the years have backed up the talk. Keegold305 replies and there ice creams always on point. Resa Kast replies to the original post and says Ben & Jerry's has CONSISTENTLY put their money where their mouth is and thats why it's the only ice cream I buy
More customer replies to Ben & Jerry's original post go as follows. TooBo says Ben and Jerry's is goated! No other company has even tried to educate others. Jaylen Brown's Socialist Stepdad replies to him and says Need to replace a civil war monument somewhere with statues of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. Mimi replies to Ben and Jerry's Truly, I will never spend my money on any other brand of ice cream. you guys are the real deal. @anazopyrein replies to Mimi saying Literally will go out of my way. Diandra replies to Ben and Jerry's and says I have seen so many companies tiptoe but B&J came out with all the humanity and honesty necessary right now. Your c-suites need to clap to your marketing team or y'all need to clap for each other because you guys are doing AWESOME! Fuck yeah!


Fans praised their direct language and pledged their continued support.

More replies to ben and jerry's. @khalilwitdbeard says Now stand on it. Keep the same energy throughout the chaos. Chunky no Dunky says Ben & Jerry's has had this energy for years. I highly recommend reading their Social and Corporate Responsibility Report. They're with the shits and back it up with action. Chunky replies to herself *it's actually called their Social and Environmental Assessment Report. She shares the link
A tweet by T!NA reads Ben and Jerry's paying their workers livable wages, giving ex convicts another opportunity at life by hiring them, And getting arrested by protecting for BLM???? TAKE ALL MY FUCKIN MONEY


Some social media users did further research and found that the companies’ policies were in line with the same principles of social justice that their statement indicated. 


Ben and Jerry’s knew their audience, anticipated their desires, and delivered a statement that met them. 


The Takeaways 

So what can we learn from this moment in marketing? When making a statement on a current event or crisis, just like any other communication, you have to listen before you speak. Often, there’s no perfect statement that will make everyone happy, so it’s important to think genuinely about where your company stands on the issue at hand. Know what your audience is looking for, the history of the topic and how it aligns with your brand reputation, and what your brand has to contribute to the discussion.


Knowing how to listen before speaking can be tricky, but it’s easier when you’re strategizing with Social Customer Experience in mind. Discover how to be more in tune with your audience so you better act when called on. Download our free Social CX guide today.  

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