Brands are no longer faceless and amorphous, they’re starting to identify themselves through their beliefs and the causes they support. Not only that, but customers are starting to expect action and authenticity from the brands they shop with.
The Havas 2021 Meaningful Brands study reported that, according to consumers, less than half (47%) of brands are seen as trustworthy and 75% could disappear and would be easily replaced. There exists an expectation gap in consumers’ relationships with brands and businesses. Consumers seek authentic, meaningful, and sustainable action for the good of society and the planet, but are feeling sorely let down by empty promises.
To examine brands’ dedication to impacting society for the better, we wanted to do a review of authentic marketing during Black History Month. Last year we put together three email strategies for executing authentic marketing during Black History Month. This year, we’re looking at brands who have applied our strategies and demonstrated genuine marketing at the halfway point of the month. Before we get into some examples, however, let’s first look at the Black History Month origin story.
The Origin of Black History Month
Black History Month started with the creation of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) in 1915. Historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland started the association with the goal of “researching and promoting achievements by Black Americans and other peoples of African descent.”
In 1926 the group decided to dedicate a week—the second week in February—to celebrating Black History. Later, in the 1960s, partially due to the civil rights movement, some colleges started celebrating Black History Month. In 1976 President Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month and called upon Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Today, during Black History Month, we aim to celebrate the achievements of the Black community and call all communities to action through advocacy and service. It’s important marketers don’t take advantage of this month to promote their brand, but instead create genuine messages that support the meaning of Black History Month. Let’s take a look at some winning examples.
1. Collaborate with Employees
Brands can recognize Black History Month by looking inwards and highlighting Black employees. As a way to support employees who don’t always have access to opportunities, brands should aim to lift up and encourage Black employees during Black History Month (and always).
Uber, the rideshare app, chose to spotlight one of their drivers, Sierra Taylor. What is especially admirable about this email is that Uber is showcasing Sierra’s company, Coco & Coal. Uber is self-aware and understands that their drivers often use driving as a way to make additional income, so they brought attention to Sierra’s main gig: her own brand. Uber is a giant that made over $11 billion in 2020 and has a huge customer-base. It’s impactful when mega-corporations can reach out and help the startups and small businesses, especially those that are Black-owned.
2. Support Charitable Causes
Brands can also show support during Black History Month by putting their money where their mouth is. A lot of these huge, well-known brands have a lot of money to dole out to various charities and selecting Black organizations is a way for brands to contribute year-round. Companies can offer donation-matching where they will match the donations made by employees or they can give a percentage of sales to these organizations.
Furniture brand, West Elm, featured this tile in one of their promotional emails that said when you shop certain collections, they’d donate 50% of the proceeds to the 15 Percent Pledge—an organization urging businesses to dedicate 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned brands— and the NAACP. Once clicked, this tile takes users to a Black History Month landing page that further explains the partnership with these organizations and has links to shop LOCAL products.
3. Extending Beyond February
There needs to be thought behind the messaging that shows there’s a reason your brand is highlighting this month and continuing efforts outside of February. If it’s just participation for the sake of participation, for just one month, it could appear like you’re pandering to your audience. Also, if your brand decides to recognize Black History Month in your marketing messages, it should be related to your brand or product offering. If you put out an email that is completely unrelated to anything your brand does or can do, it will come off as disingenuous.
Hulu, a streaming service, for example, sent the above email. To recognize Black History Month, Hulu compiled a collection of content by Black creators. Hulu has oodles of content, so they were able to use their product to showcase and celebrate Black artists. In addition, using our advice from last year, Hulu also made Black History Month the jumping-off point for permanent change. This doesn’t say “get access to this content before it’s gone!” it says “all February long—and beyond.”
So Far, So Good
At the halfway point of Black History Month, brands are supporting the cause in a variety of ways. Whether it’s spotlighting employees or contributing to charities, we hope to see a continuation of these efforts year-round. Authentic marketing is about doing something not because the customer expects it, but because it aligns with your brand’s mission and message. If you believe in something, your brand should stand behind that cause and support it wholeheartedly. Customers want authenticity and to know they are shopping with a brand that cares.
To learn more about Iterable’s culture and diversity initiatives, click here.