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Why Brands' BLM Statements Can So Easily Go Wrong
By: Inc.
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Bonin Bough knows what it takes to get a message across. He's worked with some of the biggest brands in the world as well as some of the most impressive up-and-comers. Bough was chief media and e-commerce officer for Mondelez, a position he left in 2016 to lead growth and marketing for Sundial Brands. But he's also co-hosted a television show with LeBron James and is the founder of Bonin Ventures, a growth accelerator. Here, Bough talks about the rush of companies suddenly trying to show that they stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

What should brands be saying at this time?

Organizations have to be very careful about messages that purely say, "We're with you and we support you." They have to say what they're doing to drive change. It has to be about what you, as an organization, are going to do, versus what you feel and the compassion you have. How are you supporting people, donating, hiring, making board appointments?

The reality is that change starts at home. Before even saying "We're standing with you" -- I bet if we turned on everybody's Zoom cameras, and saw everybody's organizations, you'd see that the diversity you want in the outside world is not reflected in your own organization.

After you've taken steps at home, then it becomes about who you partner with. What expectations do you have with those you do business with? What does your community look like?

It seems that some marketing departments are in a rush to put out statements, but their organizations haven't really thought through what they should do.

Before making a statement, the leadership needs to understand if it's dedicated to change. Then the statement can be, "We're in the process of making change and we'll update you."

Otherwise it's opportunistic. It's hollow. It has a large potential to be detrimental in hindsight, even though the sentiment is right. If you do have definitive actions you can speak to today, I would share those.

Does it ever make sense to post a black square on Instagram?

I don't fault people for wanting to be a part of the movement. People tried their best. And now I think the conversation has progressed. I don't think it's about black squares or saying, hey, I support you. It's, what are the plans we're going to put in place to bring about change?

As individuals in the black community, the very first thing we need to do is vote. And vote up and down the ticket on the change we want to see. Now corporate America has to figure out what their action plan is.

Is it an option to say nothing?

It's definitely an option. There are companies I definitely would recommend not to say anything. The only reason to say something is because you're going to make a conscious effort to be part of that intentional change.

Should the NFL have said nothing? 

They should just say sorry to [Colin] Kaepernick. It's great that you see the error of your ways, but an entire guy's life is ruined.

Are the expectations different for founder-led companies?

No. I think at this point in time, the expectations are high for everybody, if you're founder-led or been around for 200 years. This is not just the job of a founder. It's for boards, for C-level executives. Board appointments can be done pretty quickly. Making changes at the C-level can take longer. Then think about, how do I make sure, throughout the organization, that I'm allowing representative talent to make it through the ranks?


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