Brands, Hashtag Activism, and a Time for Real Reflection

Hashtag Activism cartoon

”Now is not the time to be silent, neither is it the time to jump on a bandwagon. It’s a time for real reflection and care with regards to how a brand and its leaders stand by the black community at this time and move forward with real steps to end racism and injustice globally and not only on the streets but in their organizations too.” – Cephas Williams, founder of 56 Black Men

As Cephas Williams put it, this is a “time for real reflection” that goes far beyond #blackouttuesday.  

Mark Ritson wrote a powerful article this week titled “If ‘Black Lives Matter’ to brands, where are your black board members?”  He wrote, “Companies need to become the change they are tweeting about. Walk the walk before you tweet the tweet.”

Mark then shared example after example of brand communication supporting Black Lives Matter this week, contrasted with screenshots of the mostly white leadership teams behind those brands.  Ouch.

That “Ouch” induced by holding up a mirror is part of this “time for real reflection.”  That applies not only to the brands we work on and the organizations we work in but to us as individuals.  

I know I have more work to do personally — including diversity in the cartoonist collaborators I work with on client projects, the marketing voices I listen to, the brands I write about, fellow speakers I recommend to event organizers, and even the cartoon characters I draw.

As a simple example, I thought that I had thought through diversity and inclusion in my cartoons (representing different ethnicities, thinking through which characters provide the punch line (and therefore become of the butt of the joke), thinking about power dynamics, playing against stereotypes, etc.).  But I was asked by someone recently why my cartoons were so white.  Ouch.  I have more work to do.

In recovery, one of the guiding principles is “progress not perfection.” When trying to make a change, perfection can be overwhelming.  Ultimately, we learn the most from our mistakes, and that’s what allows us to make progress. 

I think the “progress not perfection” principle can be helpful here too, if we’re truly honest about looking in the mirror, and not settling for what we see.

Marketoonist | Tom Fishburne


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