The Smithee Group believes in human brands. So much so that we believe 2020 to be “the year of the Human Brand” (click here to download our Marketing Guide Vol. 1). Meaning, to really succeed, every channel a brand has exposure in should work as limbs of one “human” heartbeat focused on building real and genuine relationships with customers. In today’s social media climate as every corner of the world speaks out against racism and injustice against George Floyd and many victims like him, there is even more importance to be “human” as a brand and speak directly on issues that matter. Brands now, more than ever, are experiencing consumer expectations to think and act as an individual human would: What causes do they believe in? Who are they behind the screen? What do they do with their income?
The audience asking these questions the most, are Gen Z consumers. 61% say they would pay more for products that are produced in an ethical and sustainable way. They prefer companies that oppose poverty and support green policies and human rights – and they will choose these companies who display corporate responsibility over their competitors who don’t take a stance. And before we write Gen Z (currently 8-23 years old) off as too young to sway how a brand presents themselves, data shows that Gen Z holds $44 Billion in buying power. They’re the future buyers of America and they’re listening now.
According to Pew Research Center, Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history, with 48% of Gen Z being non-white. Brands have to communicate they care about ethical issues like diversity to this audience now, while history tides are churning, and make it clear what they believe in. The phrase “silence is compliance” is ringing in the current social media landscape surrounding racial injustice, so it is imperative that brands speak sincerely in all channels quickly and contribute real actions to move toward racial equality.
Before we go any further into tips on how to become a human brand, this is an issue close to our hearts at TSG. Here is our statement on #BlackLivesMatter posted on Monday, June 1st, 2020:
As a company, we stand with our black brothers and sisters in their plight for justice after the murder of George Floyd and many victims before him. We will continue to use our voice as a company to directly oppose generational and systemic racism and our goal is to equip each of our partners, clients, and friends to do the same.⠀
As we give voice to the issues that matter, we encourage brands and businesses to be more human than ever, even as they may be navigating loss or hurt. We believe supporting one issue does not disparage another.⠀
In the following week, we will be posting more resources and action steps and we invite you to join our conversation on race and diversity, especially in our businesses.⠀
Take a Stance and Make it Count
Say something true to your brand that uses your platform to take a vocal stand for anti-racism. As you do so, provide your audience with clear steps of action to show your stance and move toward racial equality through monetary donation or sharing resources.
Here are several brand posts and action steps that spoke volumes to their audiences:
TSG is proud to be making a donation to EJI, the Equal Justice Initiative. We believe what EJI is doing is an important and crucial piece of justice and legal reform for our country.
Spend Time Learning as a Team
Commit as a company to learning together. Let diversity not just be a benchmark to hit but a culture you foster. Strong company culture across many individuals is what allows a brand to be truly “human” and act as one.
Here are some resources TSG is digging into as a team:
Black History Milestones – A Brief History of Racism in America
Harvard University’s “Project Implicit” – Harvard developed an Implicit Association Test (IAT) to test to see where your unconscious biases lie—looking at race, gender, age, weight, disability and sexuality.
MLK Speech “The Other America” – The full transcript of Dr King’s speech spoken at Stamford University in 1967, that gives context and language to what is happening today.
The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter
Reconstruction by Eric Foner
Fear Itself by Ira Katznelson
A Different Mirror by Ronald Takaki
The Price for Their Pound of Flesh by Daina Ramey Berry
How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America by Manning Marable
The Color of Money by Mehrsa Baradaran
White Rage by Carol Anderson
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Stamped From The Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David Blight
Evicted by Matthew Desmond
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Hate You Give (or read the book by Angie Thomas)
Follow Through In Years to Come
Becoming a human brand that stands with specific ethical issues like racial justice will take hard work and dedication that starts on the inside of our workplaces. Your audience and future audience (Gen Z!) is watching now and seeing how the initial sparks of brands speaking out will burn long-term.
Here are long-term diversity strategies TSG recommends specifically for our colleagues in the jewelry industry:
Hold recurring anti-racism training for your team to ensure all customers and employees are treated equally. Utilize Racism in the Workplace, a resource page for identifying racism in the workplace including job, assignments, racial slurs/language, work and pay.
Commit to supporting your local black community long-term—this could be through monetary contributions to local organizations, donation of time or resources, mentoring young people, or using your influence to support black business owners.
Commit to having a diverse store team including salespeople, brand representatives, and customers. Build partnerships with minority models and influencers to represent your brand.
Create content that shows jewelry on black and minority models. Invest in celebrating diversity in how your brand is represented to showcase all facets of beauty. Be intentional to showcase price points of jewelry on both white people and people of color equally – showing no discrimination in who might buy what.
Create a community that celebrates black history and racial equality in your local area. Partner with black-owned businesses to hold events and share social media audiences for conversations that foster relationships between different races.