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  • How do people want brands to respond to embedded inequality?
  • How do people want brands to respond to embedded inequality?
    Sprite (2020) ©
Thought leader

Why anti-racism is the next standard for brand activism

The death of George Floyd and ensuing protests saw companies worldwide attempt to address systemic racism in their messaging – though many faced a tide of consumer cynicism. Semiotics expert Chris Arning explains how brands can meaningfully show their commitment to anti-racist action.

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“For once, Don’t Do It. Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America. Don’t turn your back on racism.” Nike’s message, which smartly subverted its long-standing slogan, was among the first brand responses to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent protests in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

Such a moment of reckoning can be, to understate it, uncomfortable for businesses that have often been complicit in upholding institutional racism. A 2020 paper published as part of Stanford University’s Closer Look Series highlighted that, in the US, Black people account ...

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