Posting content without it being performative marketing

6th October 2022

They say actions speak louder than words. As a multicultural marketing specialists, we try to focus on how we can market brands in a way that doesn’t come off as whitewashing campaigns or performative marketing. We want ethnic groups to feel just as connected to brands as white British. At GottaBe! Ethnic, we aim to have brands connect with ethnic groups to prevent the feeling that they are doing so performatively during times such as Black History Month. Within this blog, we will discuss what performative marketing is, how it affects black history month, and solutions to prevent performative marketing from happening. 

What is performative marketing?

Performative marketing is essentially saying one thing while doing another. In marketing terms, this is when a business may post about Earth Day, yet the company does nothing to recycle or save energy. Marketing departments in companies may post about International Women’s Day, but only 10% of their employees may be women, let alone women in high company positions. Most companies may see these posts as not an issue; what harm is a post reminding people about Earth Day while not taking the specific steps to protect the environment? The answer is not a lot. The issue is that these are some examples of performative marketing. It means that for one day, companies are acting as if these matters are essential to them, yet for the other 364 days of the year, there is nothing in their values that align with these goals. ‘Performative marketing is what it sounds like: it’s when brands “perform” the role of being sustainable and ethical without backing up their claims with concrete actions. It can take on many forms, from greenwashing to woke washing, saviour storytelling and tokenisation,’ as mentioned in Performative Marketing: From Greenwashing to Wokewashing

Millennials and Gen-Z strive to build loyal relationships with their brands. They research brands and call out ethical brands. The most common form was greenwashing, this well-known form of performative marketing ‘when a brand markets a product as being more sustainable than it is—whether that’s giving a product sustainable attributes it doesn’t have or exaggerating production practices to seem more environmentally friendly than they are,’ according to Performative Marketing: From Greenwashing to Wokewashing. The reason businesses turn to this style of marketing is that it is powerful. Most of the time, an event or something has triggered a call to action. Brands must be careful, though, as this could weaken the trust between the brand and the consumer. ‘In many cases, organisational leaders use performance driven activity, in a way that they believe will protect company brand from being highlighted in a negative way,’ according to Performative Allyship: What Are The Signs And Why Leaders Get Exposed

How does performative marketing affect black history month? 

In the UK, October is black history month, where we take time to celebrate black creatives, athletes, fashion icons, business owners, and more. This is a time to learn more about black advocates and leaders who have impacted the generations. We honour their heritage and share traditional artworks. 

Many businesses use black history month to celebrate the culture, and the corporations run or created by black ethnicities. This performative marketing ‘can be extremely damaging, leaving marginalised employees feeling cynical, betrayed and patronised. It also breaks down trust, does far more damage than good and ultimately exasperates a sense of frustration, disempowerment, and lack of psychological safety and belonging,’ as mentioned in Actionable or Performative? Allyship That Makes an Impact

Performative marketing can waken trust and credibility with your business. It can make people in ethnic communities ‘feel like your business is tossing some money at the diversity issues and hoping they will go away,’ according to How Brands Can Go From Performative Allyship to Actual Allies. The problem is that if your company puts out these statements without showing that they are working toward these goals, it could have devastating effects on the business. ‘It’s about intent versus impact. Just because you don’t intend for something to land a certain way shouldn’t mean others have to suffer the consequences. Insensitive EDI messaging can result in negative word of mouth, poor response from the market, or people boycotting your business,’ as mentioned in How Brands Can Go From Performative Allyship to Actual Allies

Solutions to prevent performative marketing 

‘Black History Month is not just for us to honour the activists who did the work, but it’s also for us to acknowledge the people who made sacrifices. And in some cases, they made the ultimate sacrifice for something that they had no control over. … how can you show that you support the causes you’re posting about?’ according to Performative Marketing… Don’t Do It!

At GottaBe! Ethnic, we strive to create unique campaigns that share a story. Many brands realise that they need to speak to different cultures in a way that resonates with that culture. For black history month, your business should post something; however, it should be about identifying what more needs to be done. Reach out to your black African or Caribbean followers to find out what is important to them and what they would like to see more of your company do. 

It is essential that you make sure that you are aligned with where you want your values to be headed. Your messaging should be honest and take steps to be a faithful ally for these causes. When you put your message out there, it is critical that you have the systems, culture and infrastructure ready to be changed to create actual impact. 

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