Brands Must Walk Fine Line With Juneteenth

While acknowledging the Juneteenth federal holiday is not off-limits, brands must take care not to appear opportunistic and insensitive, according to a recent survey.

While 51% of the Black consumers surveyed say they want brands to participate in Juneteenth observances and include these occasions in advertising, 30% of the Black cohort is suspicious of the motivations of brands when there is such inclusion, per the Collage Group. 

The study not only discusses the significance of Juneteenth — the U.S. federal holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans on June 19, 1865 — but it also notes how Black America embraces other cultural holidays and occasions, including Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Black History Month and Kwanzaa.

Six in 10 Black Americans celebrate Juneteenth , and 20% of Americans overall celebrate the occasion, per the study of 3,800 Americans in March.



About 84% of the 500 Black consumers surveyed either want brands to celebrate the holiday -- or they are indifferent to  how brands treat the occasion.

The top three holidays among Black consumers surveyed are Thanksgiving (celebrated by 90% of Black Americans), Christmas (celebrated by 89% of Black Americans), and New Year’s (celebrated by 85% of Black Americans).

Across segments, only 8% of Americans say brands should never activate on Juneteenth, says Jenny Wolski, an analyst with Collage Group.

Americans celebrate Juneteenth in a variety of ways and learning more about Black history and culture tops the list, she says.

“Black Americans are particularly likely to celebrate this holiday by supporting Black-owned businesses and attending events celebrating Black culture, like a parade or festival,” Wolski says.

From Ben & Jerry's

The study praised Ben & Jerry's for producing a Juneteenth Resource Guide last year. The guide explained the holiday's significance and what the company is doing to address mass incarceration and criminal justice reform.

This year, the ice cream company posted a new article on its website talking about how some politicians don’t want the holiday or its origins to be discussed in schools.

Rabble, a social discovery app focused on connecting people to community events that align with the issues they care most about, is partnering with Everybody Eats Philly, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing food security. The partnership kicks off at Everybody Eats Philly's annual Juneteenth BBQ on June 18.

Bounce TV, the broadcast and multiplatform entertainment network, will recognize Juneteenth with the premiere of a new documentary, "Xernona Clayton: A Life in Black and White" on Monday.

CBS News and affiliate stations will offer special programming for Juneteenth. Coverage will be featured across all broadcasts and platforms, leading up to and on Juneteenth, including a five-hour Monday marathon of "America In Black," the prime-time newsmagazine produced by CBS News and BET, on CBS News Streaming, the network’s 24/7 news service. 

Additionally, a half-hour CBS Reports explores how a history of broken promises preventing Black farmers from owning land has contributed to the racial wealth gap and inspired new efforts to build and protect generational wealth.

A number of major companies began recognizing Juneteenth as a paid holiday in 2020, in part as a response to protests over the killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 when a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Those companies include Nike, NFL, Quicken Loans, Twitter, Square and Vox Media.

Last year, Walmart came under fire for creating a Juneteenth ice cream, which was offered for a short time along with Juneteenth wine, T-shirts and merchandise.

The red velvet- and cheesecake-flavored ice cream’s label read, “Share and celebrate African-American culture, emancipation and enduring hope.” Walmart even claimed a trademark on the word Juneteenth, although U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records don’t show a record for Walmart applying for a trademark for the word.

In 2021, Ikea also took heat for its Juneteenth menu of fried chicken and watermelon at one of its stores in Atlanta. 

The backlash shows that merchandising the holiday is clearly a misstep. 

“When it comes to how companies engage with this holiday, Americans are most interested in brands and companies helping to explain the holiday’s meaning and importance,” Collage Group’s Wolski says. 

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