How to navigate as a brand in times of change?

Our society is changing as never before. It started with #metoo, #lgbt, and #bodyactivism and now we have #blacklivesmatter. What was ok yesterday, is no longer ok. So how do we act as a brand in times of structural change? I have written some thoughts about this important challenge, so let´s dig in:-)

#BLM -how do we behave as a brand?

Some weeks ago it all began. More and more people understood that something wrong was going on -and we had to act. But what to do? As a brand you are not only a rolemodel for thousands of people, you are also a religion. A religion who show their consumers how to feel, act and behave. Many brands immediately joined “blackout tuesday” through the black box post in their social media feed (mostly Instagram). But is that enough? And if not; what is the next step?

As the days went by I observed the reactions on social media, which was very interesting. For all of the brands not posting anything, the reaction was: “Do not ignore this. Do not silence this”. But for the brands posting a black box in their feed, they also got some negative reactions, telling the brand that it isn´t enough just to post a black box -you have to take action. Suddenly the talk was about #blackwashing, which we have seen before with #greenwashing and during pride, where big companies suddenly join pride (in a not so convincing matter)…

Some people have made fun of the way people in fashion reacted towards #blm.

You thought you did the right thing….

As a brand you want to do the “right thing”. You don´t want to loose customers and you don´t want to set a bad example. But that can be difficult in a situation like #blm. As I mentioned above, some people don´t think it is enough with a black box. Others don´t think it is ok to ask the black community about what to do, and some people wants brands to apologize for earlier mistakes concerning their attitude and actions towards black people. So it almost seem as if it is impossible to act and behave 100% correct. Even members of the black community seem to disagree about the “ideal behavior”. So what do we do?

Insecure or paralyzed?

Suddenly all eyes are on you and your brand. Every step you take will be noticed (because we all follow you via social media). So what do you do? Many brands become insecure and paralyzed in situations like this. They don´t want to take a step in the wrong direction. But to stop all communication is not the answer. As a brand you are a leader, and with great leaders comes great responsibility. Therefore we all have to find out where we stand and communicate very clearly about this.

3 simple advice on what to do and how to act

  1. Treat people like you want to be treaten. It might sound simple, but it is very underestimated. Treat others with respect -always! Include as many as possible, instead of leaving groups behind. If you sell a product, think about how this product fits as many different people and social groups as possible.
  2. Be nuanced. Look at the situation from different angles and perspectives. Try to imagine the life of other groups than your own. Talk with people who are not like you. Understand what is going on.
  3. Be a clear and sympathetic leader. If you don´t have it already; create a clear politic around your values: what do you think about the different challenges and how do you want to approach them? Be consistent (don´t take a step and appologize five minutes later). Think innovative. We are creating the future every day. Understand the impact we have as a brand. We can change things to the better as a brand. Take responsibility and set an example. True leaders (and brands) of the future are not passive “safe” followers. Instead they take a stand and speak out.

But we are just a brand… I mean -we only do fashion…..”

No brand is “just a brand”. A brand is modern times religion. It is where we, as consumer, find meaning. We find values, and we try to live as the brand shows us. A brand is an illusion of a world. How we dream about living and what our deepest desires consist of. Consumers use brands as navigation and identification. They mirror themselves in seleceted brands. Every brand therefore have a responsibility. To be a leader -who can lead people in the right direction. Within the huge variety of brands there will (of course) be different approaches on how to deal with change and challenges. The important thing is to understand the role of the brand, the impact of the brand and the time we live in.

I hope it made sense, otherwise -never hesitate to contact me if you want me to explain or help:-)

Love Manou.

Photo credit: Alexis Ringma.