It’s Black History Month, and, while we are simultaneously celebrating our heritage, ancestors, favorite Black activists, and icons, many popular brands seem to be using this month as some sort of marketing strategy.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for companies and big corporations acknowledging Black History Month and paying tribute, but it seems like they’re doing it in the wrong ways.
Companies like Nike and Uber are just a few businesses that I have noticed are ‘celebrating’ Black History Month.
And while I applaud Uber for offering discounted rides to those who are visiting African American museums or other historic locations, claiming to be celebrating diversity by using a Kente cloth logo on your app isn’t exactly inflicting the change we are looking for.
In 2005, Nike released its first BHM product. Since then the company has released collections of various ‘limited edition’ shoes with color block patterns, bold colors and African print designs.
This is cool and all, but where is the actual acknowledgment of our struggles and culture. Splashing a few colors on a couple of shoes and naming it your BHM collection doesn’t really show that you know why we celebrate this month.
Throughout the year we have seen other companies like Gucci and H&M make a mockery of Black people with a few designs they allowed to hit production lines. It seems like these big companies would do a lot better proving that they are for diversity if they diversified their senior leadership roles within the company first.
In contrast to these companies who are only using Black History Month to pretend that they are inclusive all while profiting off pieces of our culture, there are the companies who are using the month to spread awareness and actually honor our history.
During the 2020 Grammy’s, Google launched their “The Most Searched” campaign in honor of BHM. The campaign showcases the most searched historical moments made by Black people.
For instance, the most searched speech (“I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King, Jr.), the most searched performance (Beyoncé’s Coachella performance) and the most searched athlete (Lebron James).
Just last year, Ben & Jerry’s introduced a new flavor called Justice ReMix’d. The flavor, which contains cinnamon and chocolate ice creams with gobs of cinnamon bun dough and fudge brownies, is a collaboration with the Advancement Project to help spread awareness about criminal justice reform.
So, while I appreciate the effort of these companies, they could try a little bit harder to show that they care about our culture.
Black History Month should unquestionably be celebrated in a meaningful way without being used as a marketing tool or a tactic to prove you’re ‘doing it for the culture’ when in actuality you’re not.
Successful campaigns show that the company genuinely cares about the cause and is not simply trying to exploit Black History Month by selling their products.