Consumers want brands to address systemic racism, survey says

Dive Brief:

  • Most consumers want corporations and brands to take a stand on ending systemic racism, an issue that has gained greater attention after George Floyd was killed while in police custody in May. Eighty-one percent of Black respondents and 54% of white respondents said they believe companies should speak out against racial injustice, a survey by public relations firm Edelman found.
  • More than three quarters (77%) of U.S. consumers said it is “deeply important that companies respond to racial injustice to earn or keep their trust.” Almost half (48%) of respondents said how a brand responds to the protests against racism has a big effect on their likelihood to purchase from it, while 37% will buy or boycott a brand based on its response.
  • Despite what businesses have done to address racism, there are major gaps between expectation and performance in several metrics among all ethnic groups: a 27-point gap on “Create Change,” a 25-point gap on “Educate and Influence” and a 28-point gap on “Get Their Own House in Order.”

Dive Insight:

Marketers have more work to do in ending systemic racism as many consumers expect companies and brands to be more vocal and active about pressing social issues. Only 44% of survey respondents said the business community has taken concrete action to end racism, an indication that companies and brands must follow through on public pronouncements against racism in order to have an effect on public opinion. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, economic woes and political divisiveness in the lead-up to the November elections, marketers face a key challenge in addressing racial injustice, according to Edelman.

Brands that take a stand on systemic racism have an economic incentive to do so, the study suggests. Consumers are 4.5 times more likely to trust brands that address racial issues than those that don’t. Younger consumers are more sensitive than the general population to these issues, being 5.5 times as likely to trust brands that address racism. However, half of all respondents said they were unaware of a brand’s actions to address racism, again indicating an opportunity to be more public about the issue.

Edelman recommends brands and companies take a variety to steps to end systemic racism, including changes to their marketing to avoid stereotypes and racist tropes. Companies’ public statements about racism must include actions such as hiring, retaining and promoting people from diverse backgrounds to achieve better representation internally.

However, the actions can’t be seen as empty gestures from the C-suite. Only 32% of people trust CEOs on racial injustice issues, making them the least trusted of 20 different categories of spokespeople. Seventy-one percent of respondents said most CEOs are incapable of recognizing racism around them, while 55% said CEOs must be active in speaking out against racism at their companies and the community, the survey of 2,000 people found. CEOs need to collaborate with more trusted sources on racial justice issues, including diversity and inclusion officers within their own companies, the survey suggests.

Edelman’s latest survey follows a July report by Piplsay that found 65% of Americans think brands should take a stand against racism and 46% feel that such actions will lead to a credible change. However, while campaigns by the NBA, Sprite and Papa John’s related to the Black Lives Matter movement performed well, efforts by McDonald’s and P&G waded into a “danger zone,” per separate Ace Metrix studies.

Source Article