This past summer, New Orleans-based research firm MDRG tracked weekly consumer behaviors and attitudes culminating in their study, Black Lives Matter: MindStates and Metaphors. In a webinar for the New Orleans Chapter of the American Marketing Association, MDRG’s Senior Director of Marketing and Operations, Stephanie Douglass, broke down what this data means for brands, researchers and marketing agencies. 

After 10 weeks tracking consumer behaviors related to COVID-19, the firm pivoted to track feelings around Black Lives Matter. For the purposes of this study BLM references the movement rather than the specific organization. 

Brands are looking to see how to reckon with racial issues internally and with their public messaging. One question Stephanie came to was, “How do we respond as an organization? Will our response push the movement forward and what impact will it have on our brand?”

By surveying over 200,000 consumers on their feelings around protests for four weeks they found that 6/10 in were in support of the protests with 2/10 neutral, and 2/10 against. Trends fell along expected lines in regards to age, urban and rural divide, and party lines.

Their study used online metaphor elicitation exercises to revel a conscious and subconscious responses to get a more complete understanding of consumer’s emotions. Two metaphors they found commonly present were journey and transformation.

“Ultimately, the fight for equality in America is seen as a long journey” Stephanie explained, “A majority of Americans believe brands have a role in this fight by responding to the issue of police violence.” Studies have found 69% of Gen Z are more likely to buy from a company that contributes to social causes, and that some Americans would stop buying from a brand if they are perceived to have behaved hypocritically on the issues of racial injustice.

She stressed that it is crucial for brands to remain authentic, using their own voices to be believable and relevant. “Values your brand brings to the table in response to this changing dynamic should be ingrained in employees and internalized in the corporate culture,” she explained. 

How you’re treating your employees is a reflection of your brand just as much as your advertising. She noted a local example of the backlash faced by the Ace Hotel, when they posted a message in support of protests this summer. They were then called out publicly on the post by former employees for the hotel’s habits of using BIPOC identities to sell their brand while doing nothing to help when those employees were harassed by customers and management, and were kept from moving up. 

“Allyship without accountability is not enough,” she explained. She emphasized that while brands take actions such as hiring chief diversity officers, implementing programs to support value and mission, and change corporate culture it is crucial to look at the data to understand how black consumers experience your brand. 41% of black Americans feel that brands don’t understand them, and Stephanie feels it’s our duty to examine how our research and marketing policies are whitewashed.

“Most importantly, look at the data- identify key research studies to review with a lens toward diversity, and determine areas where black Americans are underserved by your brand and take action through specific initiatives to address these areas,” Stephanie said. 

To hear the full webinar withmore analysis of which brands are doing what well, how research companies can make their surveys more equitable, and a deeper dive into the data join our AMA NOLA Chapter and you’ll receive an email with all of our 2020/2021 webinar recordings. AMA NOLA has so many wonderful membership benefits, learn more. (If you’re already a member—YAY! You should have received the webinar recordings via email—if not—email president@amaneworleans.com.)

By Olivia Morgan, Fund Development Coordinator at Culture Aid Nola.