Two years ago, on May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by a policeman in Minneapolis. It wasn’t the first Black civilian death at the hands of a policeman by far -- and sadly, it wasn't the last.
But something interesting happened. A vast majority of the population was so shocked and disgusted by what had happened that a national moment of reckoning grew from it. And countless marketers actively sought to support minorities. There were messages of support, and investments were made in black communities and businesses. Companies appointed diversity officers in droves, and formulated diversity goals. Painful, honest conversations took place. In other words: Real change happened.
Equally, in states where overzealous apparatchiks are banning and limiting the rights of transgender girls and boys, many marketers are rightly taking a stance. Similarly with abortions, where some marketers have stepped up and are offering additional healthcare and financial benefits for those employees impacted by the impending or actual ban in certain states. These issues are less broadly supported by marketers than Black Lives Matter, but at least there is some support.
Did marketers catch some flack for these actions? Sure, a very small but vocal group of extremists and trolls made it known they’d never fly American Airlines again, or never set foot in a Disney park or eat at McDonald’s.
But of course, nothing damaging happened to the brands that spoke out. In the end, it was an easy win for brands and marketers, because all of these issues are pretty much no-brainers. Poll after poll shows that majorities of Republicans, Democrats and Independents show they do not want to be limited or governed in the way some firebrand politicians and their loud minority support groups want.
So my question is this: Where are those marketers now, in the face of yet another senseless, heinous mass shooting? Where are the calls for universal gun-buyer background checks? A national gun registry? Mental health support improvements in schools? A ban on high caliber guns and ammo of the type that would make the Ukrainian army jealous? Where are those marketers stating they won’t support businesses or interest groups that want to maintain the status quo, or proclaim the answer somehow is “more guns”?
Again, the vast majority across the political spectrum shows support for basic fixes that would create some levels of gun ownership regulation. But to date I have yet to see marketers stand up and speak out like Chris Murphy, Senator (D) from Connecticut did. Or NBA coach Steve Kerr. Or the 13-year-old middle school student addressing the Grand Rapids, Michigan City Commission on police shootings and trust. Or National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman on abortion rights.
It is naïve to think that racial problems have been solved, or that racism does not exist anymore. It is equally naïve to think that gun issues, abortion or police brutality would get solved by marketers speaking out about it. But I think it is fair to say that silence now also speaks volumes. And that “Our thoughts and prayers” simply does not cut it anymore. Speak up! The vast majority of your consumers is on your side.