What’s The Trend:
Racism manifests itself in a number of ways around the globe. Recent racially-charged incidents have highlighted the growing agitation of society against racial inequality, while revealing new ways brands, advertisers and social-media-engagement can help the movement.
The demand for racial equality is not new, but the way in which entities around the globe are looking to enact change is evolving. In India, the long-established belief that fairness in skin tone equals beauty has been intensified by marketers who cater to this with products (i.e. creams, face washes, lotions) to promote skin lightening.(11) These advertisements, with their racist indications, are now the target of the Advertising Standards Council of India, (“ASCI”). The ASCI drafted guidelines that if passed, impose on advertisers a number of rules such as not showing darker skinned people as “unhappy, depressed or disadvantaged in any way by skin tone” and not associating skin color with a “particular socio-economic class, ethnicity or community.”(12)
In Europe, soccer has been in the limelight for horrific acts of racism against dark-skinned players. In one match between FC Barcelona and Villareal CF in Spain this past April, a fan threw a banana at the Brazilian player Dani Alves as he set up to take a corner kick.(13) After the incident, many famous players united in support of Alves by posting photos of themselves on twitter and instagram eating bananas with the hashtag #somostodosmacacos.(14) This was actually a planned campaign, but it became a social media and global phenomenon, highlighting the growing demand for racial equality and new ways social media is facilitating the movement.(15)
Brands have helped further the cause by maintaining allegiance with values of racial-equality. After Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, made racist comments back in April, advertisers sought to distance themselves from the incident and stood united with the outraged public. Mercedes-Benz, CarMax and Virgin America all ended their sponsorship of the Clippers.(16) This example shows the tough spot brands are in if they are linked to something controversial, but also how they can use that position to take a stand.
The former situation is a more reactive example, but brands have also taken proactive measures by including mix-raced families when promoting their product. A great illustration of this is the Cheerios commercial that aired during the Super Bowl showing a biracial couple telling their daughter Gracie that she would be having a new baby brother by using the cheerios as a prop to represent their family. Subtle cues in the commercial such as: maintaining ethnically-neutral background music and having the African-American father’s pattern of speech align with mainstream middle class America, all helped portray the message that the Cheerios product and Brand celebrates inclusiveness.(17)
Why It Matters:
Looking towards the future, Hispanics are the fastest growing and largest minority group in the U.S. According to a study on the changing demographics of our country released by the Pew Research Center this year, the percentage of non-Hispanic whites within the U.S. will decrease to 43% by 2060, a significant dip from 85% in 1960. In the world of 2060, Hispanic and Black Americans will together make up 45% of the population.(18) Despite this anticipated change in the composition of what is America, racism will not dissolve on its own.
Brands and global companies have the opportunity to position themselves and use their reach to support the global movement toward racial equality for all minority groups, as the changing demographics of the U.S. makes it an even more relevant and pressing issue.
11. Vaidyanathan, Rajini. (2012, June). “Has skin whitening in India gone too far?” BBC. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-18268914.
12. Balakrishnan, Ravi and Shephali Bhatt. (2014, June). “New guidelines for fairness advertisements: Don’t show bias on basis of skin colour, say ASCI.” The Economic Times. http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-06-11/news/50508833_1_advertising-standards-council-new-guidelines-asci.
13. Demby, Gene. (2014, May). “European Soccer Tackles Racism But Slips On A Banana Peel.” NPR. http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/05/01/308408903/european-soccer-tackles-racism-but-slips-on-a-banana-peel.
14. Historically, ‘Macaco’ has been shouted by fans to insult black soccer players.
15. Berger, Miriam. (2014, April). “The Banana Selfie Campaign Against Racism Was Actually A Planned Marketing Stunt.” BuzzFeed News. http://www.buzzfeed.com/miriamberger/the-banana-selfie-campaign-against-racism-was-actually-a-pla#1zp9ar5.
16. The Associated Press. (2014, April). “Advertisers head for the exits after allegedly racist comments of Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling.” Oregon Live. http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2014/04/donald_sterling_clippers_racis.html.
17. Groves, Roger. (2014, February). “The Subtlety of The Cheerios Super Bowl Commercial.” Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/rogergroves/2014/02/02/the-subtly-of-the-super-bowl-cheerios-commercial/.
18. Krogstad, Jens and Mark Lopez. (2014, April). “Hispanic Nativity Shift.” PewResearch Hispanic Trends. http://www.pewhispanic.org/2014/04/29/hispanic-nativity-shift/.