The year was 2020 and Instagram was alive with pledges from beauty and wellness brands to be more conscious of inclusivity in advertising imagery and business practices. Some companies made good on promises, while others slowly drifted back to business as usual.
“Representation is a statement of who a company values,” said Amity Paye, interim Director of Storytelling & Marketing, and the Senior Director of Communications for Color of Change, to Quartz.
The Color of Change is a civil rights advocacy nonprofit. The article in Quartz, published ahead of the one year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by law enforcement, looked to quantify whether promises made in 2020 on social media by brands regarding representation had been realized.
Paye explained that while it is important to have representation at all employment levels within a company, what a company displays as an advertising identity also matters. All people want and need to see themselves reflected in definitions of beauty.
The Quartz Instagram Brand Analysis
In May, Quartz published an analysis of the skin tones in 27,000 Instagram posts by 34 beauty and fashion industry brands over one year, tracking which have kept their word regarding diversity. Data reporters looked at representation before and after solidarity, diversity, and equity statements were made.
What they found was that “only a few brands made significant lasting changes.” And Sephora, owned by Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, also stood out as a leader when the company took a pledge to allocate 15% of retail space to Black-owned brands. A wise choice in a market driven by African-American consumption.
Quartz showed that luxury fashion brand Burberry, which already had a diverse portfolio of models, maintained its lead before and after its statement supporting Black Lives Matter.
- Of the mass-market fashion industry brands, Victoria’s Secret showed the most change and Old Navy the least.
- And of the contemporary fashion brands, Polo Ralph Lauren consistently showed the most progress.
While such data might seem to be superficial, branding images indicate who the brand values and how it wants to be perceived.
The MUTHA™ Brand’s Response
Luxury skincare brand MUTHA™ responded to Floyd’s death with Instagram posts and backed those posted up by designing a product to help fund the fight against racism.
According to an analysis of brand responses in 2021 by Vox, this conscious choice ended up fulfilling consumer expectations of anti-racism actions by corporations that pledged social responsibility. “In a survey conducted by the public relations firm Edelman in 2020, 60 percent of American respondents said they wanted brands‘ to use their marketing dollars to advocate for racial equality,’” the Vox article states.
“What we’ve learned over the last few days is that it’s going to be impossible to make meaningful changes without listening. So we’ve been listening.
And after listening and thinking, it’s clear to us that we want to see a long-term change. Not just this week, but forever. We know that change needs consistency, and know it takes time and hard work. Following our team brainstorm, MUTHA has decided that we will be creating a product where 100% of the profits will go to fight racial injustices. More to come soon.
It’s up to us to be the change.”
On December 16, 2020, MUTHA™ launched the F* RACISM Room Candle “in solidarity with leading organizations that are blazing a path forward in the fight for racial justice.” All profits were directed to The Conscious Kid, a nonprofit education, research, and policy organization, which is dedicated to ensuring all children develop healthy racial identity by intervening early in the development of racial biases.
The Conscious Kid responded with a statement of gratitude saying, ”Support like this is what enables organizations like ours to be sustainable in this work. It is absolutely critical to our ability to continue making an impact.”
Hope Dworaczyk Smith, the founder and CEO of MUTHA, chose to collaborate with The Conscious Kid because of her own observations of bias in educational settings that impacted her children. Hope is dedicated to equity, and she wants to see lasting change in this generation. Because celebrating Black lives isn’t just a Black History Month acknowledgement, it’s a daily reality.