The belief that we develop during the session is not simply a well worded statement to slap on a poster or put in a brand book. Belief can’t live on a page. It must live through the people who make the brand. We like to call them zealots, but this group of people includes employees, suppliers, partners, customers and ambassadors.
No matter how truthful your belief, if you fail to successfully rally your people around it, your impact and growth potential as a brand is severely limited.
As the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement experiences a global resurgence with greater support than ever before, many businesses are experiencing the very real and incredibly damaging impact of failing to rally their people together around a unifying belief. Countless brands have been accused of performative allyship and had their divisive belief systems exposed to the world by those who know the truth.
L’Oreal was among the first to be called out by unofficial internet watchdog Diet Prada after showing their support for the BLM movement on Instagram, only to be exposed minutes later by Black transgender model Munroe Bergdorf. L’Oreal had in fact fired Bergdorf from her role as brand ambassador in 2017 after she spoke out publicly against white supremacy during the Charlottesville riots.
Just days later Australian designer label Zimmerman were in the line of fire after a section of their retail employee manual was leaked online, detailing grooming standards that were painfully Caucasian and explicitly prohibited hairstyles like braids and top knots which are traditionally used to protect afro-textured hair. But the leak was just the beginning of what would become a tidal wave of former interns, employees and customers sharing their shocking experiences with racism within the company.
Even global giants who should know better made the mistake of flinging open their doors to the public before putting their skeletons back in the closet. On June 11th Starbucks banned employees from wearing BLM apparel while at work. On June 12th they pivoted in support of the movement, announcing that they had commissioned a custom BLM shirt for employees. The backlash was swift, strong, and every bit deserved.
A belief isn’t something you can just decide in a day and put out to the world. For the belief to stand up, you have to put in the work to make sure that it’s evident and supported in every aspect of your business. A pretty house is nothing if the framework is shoddy and there’s no insulation.
So when it comes to global movements like Black Lives Matter – the importance of which cannot be understated – before you make a public declaration of belief, consider whether you have the license to say what you’re about to say. And if you find that you don’t, then start at the bottom and work your way up until you do.
Annabel Begeng, Junior Copywriter @ 50 Crates
* The 50 Crates Know Thyself session is a guided workshop designed to examine the culture a brand exists in, reveal powerful human truths, and ultimately define the brand’s relevance to the people it seeks to serve.