As thousands of protesters take to the streets in response to police killings of black people, companies are wading into the national conversation but taking care to get their messaging right.
Netflix’s normally lighthearted Twitter account took on a more somber tone on Saturday: “To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter. We have a platform, and we have a duty to our Black members, employees, creators and talent to speak up.” That got retweeted over 216,000 times and “liked” over a million times.
The streaming service is just one of many corporate brands that have turned to social media to voice concerns over racial injustice after the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
Other companies have been kept their messages broad. For instance, The Walt Disney Co. and its brands, like Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar, all posted the same statement on Twitter about standing for inclusion and with the black community. Starbucks, which took heat when two black men in one of its Philadelphia stores were arrested for not ordering anything, simply said it will stand in solidarity with black partners, customers and communities: “We will not be bystanders.”
Brand experts say corporate America needs to go beyond statements and outline what they plan to do to combat racism.
“Expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Movement is the right message, but everyone is jumping in on that bandwagon,” said Allen Adamson, co-founder and managing partner of Metaforce a marketing and product consultancy. “Just saying you are standing with them is nice but probably isn’t going to be meaningful for them or for the brand. It can be seen as opportunistic.”
Wendy Liebmann, founder and CEO of WSL Strategic Retail, agrees, saying there is no reason to make a public statement unless the company actually has a concrete plan to help resolve the issue of racism. She praised Peloton’s Twitter pledge to donate $500,000 to the NAACP legal defense fund as an example.
Jeans giant Levi Strauss & Co. is also backing its statements with money, committing $100,000 to its longstanding partner ACLU. YouTube pledged $1 million to support efforts addressing social injustice. And semiconductor chip manufacturer Intel is pledging $1 million to address social justice and racism.