As a first-year student pursuing marketing at Booth, one of my goals is to engage with faculty, alumni, and the greater Chicago community about how companies can prioritize and embrace equity. The Kilts Center’s inaugural Marketing for Good event, ‘How do companies respond to Black Lives Matter?’, provided a great kick-off point to frame more of those conversations at Booth.
Panelists Scott Uzzell, ’98, President and CEO, Converse, Chipo Nyambuya, Loyola School of Law’s Director of Externships and Principal of Virgil, LLC, and Pradeep Chintagunta, Joseph T. and Bernice S. Lewis Distinguished Service Professor of Marketing, came together to share their perspectives on how the Black Lives Matter movement is changing the way companies are tackling social and race-related issues. Here are a few insights that illustrated how CEOs and companies can best respond.
Form Your Approach Authentically
Each panelist shared that the first—and most essential—step to responding to social issues is to be authentic. Customers are relating to brands outside of the products that are sold. They are embracing a lifestyle or specific outlook and are now stakeholders in the company. As a result, companies need to review the tenants of their brands and corporate visions to understand where and how they have prioritized diversity and equity.
Chipo Nyambuya stated, “I tell companies the same thing I tell my students. You have to go inward before you start pushing out.” Once companies have looked inward and been reflective of their position, that perspective can lead to an authentic and intentional response.
Actions are More Important than Words. The Proof is in the Data
Professor Chintagunta discussed his research from over the summer, which examined consumer responses on Twitter after companies issued statements highlighting their commitment to diversity and inclusion. The research found that if companies only issued a superficial statement, negative sentiment increased. If companies issued statements with actions that could lead to tangible changes, positive sentiment increased. Marketers and companies need to remember to match actions against the goals and commitments they set for themselves so that positive change can be enacted.
Understand How Your Employees Are Feeling and Meet Them at the Moment
When discussing the immediate impact of the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others, Scott Uzzell noted that his heart and gut used to be left at home, but in this moment that changed. He was leading an organization with thousands of employees and they were all looking for direction. The importance of looking inward and understanding what your core beliefs as a business are involves engaging with employees. Companies need to take real actions to make sure their culture is inclusive.
Having diverse voices and communities at the table is a value add. Companies that can harness that talent and prioritize equity will be able to operate in an evolving market where the role of customers as stakeholders will be a dominant one.
You can hear these insights and others by watching the full recording of the Marketing for Good event.