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- Black History Month 2021 is here. Is your brand educated on black experiences and taking steps to amplify and celebrate them?
- Brands celebrating Black History Month can get involved in a number of ways – but the best ideas come from placing black voices in centre stage.
- The brands getting it right are making genuine commitments to affect positive change, and creating opportunities for people of black, asian and minority ethnic backgrounds all year round. Here, you’ll find inspiration and ideas for how to do the same.
October is Black History Month in the UK, and in 2021, it’s a powerful opportunity for brands to celebrate and recognise the experiences and achievements of the black people and communities that shaped them – and examine how to do more. But how can brands ensure they are celebrating black history in a meaningful way?
In this article, we’re taking you through important steps to consider as a brand when celebrating black history month, and providing examples to help spark your ideas.
What Is Black History Month?
Black History Month is a national celebration that recognises and promotes black contributions to society. Its origins go back to the 1920s in the United States where it was started by Carter G. Woodson as Negro History Week, providing an opportunity to acknowledge the history of African Americans. It was launched in the 1980s in the United Kingdom as a result of community activism, and is an important moment for talks, events, exhibitions, activities and culture as a whole to consider the nation’s black experiences.
A great place for information on what’s going on is www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk. The theme this year is ‘Dig Deeper, Look Closer, Think Bigger’.
Why is Black History Month Important?
With Black History Month, context is everything. It’s an opportunity to examine the role of history on the systemic racism underpinning the representation of and opportunities for black people, into the current day. Six in 10 Gen Zs see systemic racism as a widespread issue in society. Brands can do more to help.
While people from African, Caribbean and Black British backgrounds have been an integral part of the nation’s history for centuries, their contribution to society has historically been disregarded or distorted. Black History Month is a good time to make sure everyone is making steps to change that, all year round.
How to Celebrate Black History Month
So, how can your brand celebrate Black History Month? If you’re advertising diversity, you’ve got to make commitments within your company, too. Gen Z in particular is very well educated about brands – and they’ll suss out if your message isn’t genuine. But getting it right is a double win: you’ll make a positive difference, and you’ll unlock Gen Z – 70 percent of whom purchase products from companies they consider ethical.
It’s useful to know, too, that Gen Z are tolerant of mistakes – if you correct them. Black History Month is a good time to be upfront. Talk about where you’re getting things right, and hold yourself to account if you’ve come up short. It’s an opportunity to get better.
Diversity in Marketing
We know that for Gen Z, marketing and work ethics are converging. The companies getting it right are taking a stand on topics and making sure everyone is on board, from their staff to their influencers.
A great example is skincare brand Origins. Origins creates safe, high-performance products while committing to minimal packaging and conscious manufacturing. They recently partnered with NGO American Forests to plant 30,000 trees, helping to restore ecosystems and combat climate change.
To spread the word of this campaign, Fanbytes pushed the hashtag #ShowYourOrigins, with every piece of social content meaning one tree planted. We reached out to our diverse network of influencers, including @viluong and @monaswain, asking them to tell their own origin story – and the result was amazing. TikTokers spoke openly about themselves and their backgrounds. It became a celebration of diverse identities as well as an environmental campaign.
It goes to show that by placing diversity at the centre of your message in a meaningful and genuine way, you’ll reach more people and connect with them on a deeper level.
Centre Black Experiences
Another example of how brands can do more to support the black community is to amplify their experiences. Brands can use Black History Month to examine who is speaking for their brand – and if the stories they tell could centre black viewpoints.
An example of this is our campaign with Headie One. The Ghanaian-British rapper linked with Young T & Bugsey to release the track ‘Princess Cuts’ this year, and we delivered a light-hearted brief where social media users showed a hair transformation with the hashtag #PrincessCutsChallenge, with a “glow up”-style transition taking place just as the ‘princess cuts’ line drops.
It was important to us that the campaign amplified the black experience of hair styling, and the breadth and variety – and inspirational transformations – that black hair offers. Our fave examples are @shericebanton and @ryleyisaac, who used the campaign to talk about how they brush and care for their curls.
We are excited for how trends like this will continue to emerge, as updates to regulations for UK hairdressers now mean every UK hairstylist must learn how to cut and style afro hair.
Consider Black Business Owners
Brands can use the opportunity of Black History Month to consider if the way they run their business can do more to tackle racial injustices. If you have the option to partner with other brands, consider the identity of that business. Do they stand for the same values as you? Could you be doing more to support black business owners?
In 2020, many brands signed up to the 15% pledge, which calls on retailers to commit a minimum of 15% of their shelf space to black-owned businesses. The pledge is an opportunity to respond to your brand’s community and re-evaluate what “business as usual” means. You can also set goals and track your purchases from black-owned businesses. Check out this resource from Google to find a black business to support – or if you’re a black business owner yourself, you can use this guide to help make yourself more visible.
We’re proud that Fanbytes is a black-owned agency. Over 40% of Fanbyters identify as BAME, including 50% of our Senior Leadership Team.
Support Causes that Tackle Racism
A helpful way brands choose to celebrate Black History Month is by donating to charities that support anti-racism equity and equality. These include Stop Hate UK, a charity that provides support to victims of hate crime and discrimination; UK Black Pride, an organisation that supports LGBTQ+ people of colour, StopWatch UK, which promotes fair and accountable policing, Black Minds Matter, which provides free mental health resources for the Black community – and many more.
But companies can go further. Our work with 10,000 Black Interns is something we want to shout about: it’s a program that’s offering 2,000 internships each year for five consecutive years, in a bid to tackle institutionalised racism and provide equal opportunities. They’ve partnered with firms from 24 different sectors to provide young people with paid work experience. We’re spreading the word with a viral challenge. If your brand wants to get involved, the info to join is here: www.10000blackinterns.com/offer-an-internship
When you consider that around a third of Gen Z have had strong conversations about race issues, it’s clear that this generation are all about taking initiative. By getting involved with causes like these, you’ve gained a valuable resource *and* Gen Z’s respect.
In Conclusion: Do The Work, *Be* The Work.
The best way your brand can celebrate Black History Month is to look at the topics or causes that make sense to you and your customers, and ensure you have something valuable to say. More importantly, be sure to demonstrate that value in what you do. It’s vital that your actions match your words. It’s a company-wide effort – top down and bottom up, from the inside to the outside.
Black History Month for your brand isn’t just a marketing exercise for your audience. It’s Black History Month in the workplace, too. Take the opportunity to consult your black staff and listen carefully to what they have to say. Have the conversation about how your brand will respond to Black History Month, and make sure they’re part of the decision-making process. (That’s where the best – and the most genuine – ideas come together).
Once you’ve examined this month, make sure you are taking these steps throughout the year. You’ll create a culture where black experiences are centred, amplified, celebrated and supported – and everyone will feel the benefit.
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