Content marketing doesn’t always get it right, and even well-meaning strategies can sometimes miss the mark. But since the landmark events of 2020, including the murder of George Floyd and nation-wide Black Lives Matter protests, leading brands and businesses are dedicating themselves to elevating and diversifying their values, products, and messaging.
“Most major businesses have inclusion initiatives and are working towards better representing their employees and their customers,” according to Getty Images, where reportedly over 70% of client consultations revolve around visualizing diversity and inclusion.
Representation matters more than ever, but employing authentic visuals is only one part of the puzzle. Recognizing, uplifting and celebrating Black stories, Black joy, and Black-owned businesses is even more important. Read on to discover how three of today’s industry giants are going above and beyond to create change and commemorate Black History Month, and how your brand can start making waves as well.
AT&T — Dream in Black
Campaign mission: “At AT&T, we believe that access opens the door to opportunities that help create equality for all. That is why we will continue to invest in programs like Black Future Makers, that honor and elevate this community to support them in reaching their full potential.”
Commitment in action: Currently in its fourth year, AT&T Dream in Black is a multi-channel Afrofuturistic lifestyle platform that uplifts African American culture and communities through a range of impactful initiatives. Their biggest undertaking is Black Future Makers, an ongoing annual contest that honors individuals who are “shaping culture, advocating for equity and creating pathways for the next generation of Black achievers.”
“Black Future Makers pays homage to all the leaders and pioneers that have paved the way for black culture, but it also focuses more on today, the now, the new, the next. We flipped [Black History Month] on its head and went with Black Future Makers to give a nod to the past, but look to the future.”
— Tish Galindo, Founder and CEO, 360 Agency
With the Black Future Makers Alumni Hall — featuring custom-made artwork and bio pages for each member — as well as a spotlight on Rising Future Makers selected from Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU), the site creates a celebratory space that inspires a world of possibilities in winners and audiences alike.
This year’s campaign also offers a free, public art exhibition at the AT&T Showcase in Dallas, featuring the work of muralist and Black Future Maker Artist in Residence Georgie Nakima. Her designs are used on the platform’s Portrait Generator as well, a fun way for users to engage with the site and imagine themselves as the next cohort of Black Future Makers.
Why it’s powerful: This is much more than a one-off content project or marketing campaign. Dream in Black is an initiative that keeps growing, building and bettering itself with every year that passes. Each month, they’ll announce a new Future Maker winner, continuing to create new opportunities for deserving individuals, and by extension, their communities.
These efforts, and the $10,000 that accompanies each award, make real changes in the lives of participants. One of last year’s winners included Kyla Bates, “a Baton Rouge-based poet and motivational speaker who plans to use her funding to open a visual and performing arts conservatory that will serve the youth in her hometown of Zachary, Louisiana.”
What’s more, a steady stream of online events, like the Instagram Live Dream Talk Series, keep the AT&T’s audience engaged and tuned in to the greater mission at hand. This month’s installment, “Representation Matters: I Want To Feel Seen” features 2022 Black Future Maker and Gospel superstar Kierra Sheard-Kelly alongside fellow Future Maker and Youtuber Terrell Grice.
Target — Black Beyond Measure
Campaign mission: “At Target, we honor the sacrifice of Black leaders of the past while amplifying and celebrating the voices of the Black community of today. And by continuing to expand our partnerships with Black-owned businesses and HBCUs, we’re illuminating Black joy and building the best tomorrow.”
Commitment in action: Last year, the retail giant announced an initiative to spend more than $2 billion with Black-owned businesses by 2025, in an attempt to “create more equitable experiences for our Black guests, and use our company’s size, scale and resources to create economic opportunity for Black-owned businesses that extends outside of Target.”
During Black History Month, Target continues to support Black employees, designers and entrepreneurs with a new collection of exclusive products spanning apparel, accessories, home, beauty, food, toys, books and beyond. The range includes t-shirts made from cotton sources from a fifth-generation Black family farm as well as pieces from the three winners of the company’s annual HBCU Design Challenge, which selects artwork and graphics to print on items for each February’s special releases.
This initiative has since grown to include Technology and Leadership Challenges as well, creating even more opportunities for students and alumni of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Similarly, the new Target Scholarship Program will provide 1,000 first-year students at more than a dozen HBCUs $5,000 in scholarships, plus mentoring, internship opportunities, networking and more throughout their college career.
Why it’s powerful: “This year we invested and partnered with more Black artists, designers, brands and even farms than ever before to bring the assortment to life,” according to Tawnya Artisst, Design Director, Multicultural Product Design & Advancement. “This approach has allowed us to realize the 2022 theme of ‘Creating our Own Future,’ given that the overwhelming majority of the assortment products were created by and with members of the Black community.”
“Our Buy Black page within the Black Beyond Measure hub on Target.com showcases over 1,000 products from Black-owned brands that are part of our everyday assortment,” adds Multicultural Merchandising Senior Buyer Frankie Neptune.
“Each quarter we highlight a few of the amazing founders whose products are available in our stores or online. So, while Black History Month is a moment in time, our efforts in supporting Black owned brands happens every day in the work that our team does.”
McDonald’s — Black and Positively Golden
Campaign mission: “Black & Positively Golden is a new movement to uplift communities and empower excellence. It highlights all things positive in the culture and focuses on stories of truth, power and pride. It celebrates Black excellence, supports education, empowerment and entrepreneurship, and shares cherished moments.”
Commitment in action: Developed with Burrell Communications, which has handled McDonald’s marketing to African-Americans since 1972, Black and Positively Golden is a platform that “celebrates individuals and organizations who take action to strengthen the community and culture,” according to fast food leader; “people who use education and mentorship to help build the next generation…[and] are committed to telling the stories of truth, power, and pride.”
And that’s exactly what they’ve done with this year’s “Future 22” campaign to commemorate Black History Month. “Showcasing 22 dynamic Black leaders who are doing the work today for the world they want tomorrow,” the initiative shares the powerful stories of individuals making a real impact in their communities today, from a champion of Black sign language to a mental health advocate, urban gardener, and much more.
With a dedicated Instagram page and a video series narrated by Keke Palmer dropping on YouTube over the course of the coming months, the campaign is set to be pushed across social media and digital advertising as well as radio and TV — the commercial for which (seen above) was directed by one of the chosen 22, a young filmmaker from Memphis named Kevin Brooks.
“It’s so special to direct this commercial that celebrates young Black leaders who are creating the change they want to see,” he says.
“As a kid, I dreamed of creating impactful and purposeful work, and to be recognized as a gamechanger by McDonald’s, while directing the spot, is an opportunity of a lifetime and a big deal. For me, it’s Black history.”
“People are about brands that stand up for what they believe in. [With] the narrative that we’re facing in this country right now, it was just the time to have positive, uplifting conversations that inspire Black excellence.” – Lizette Williams, former Head of Cultural Engagement & Experiences, McDonald’s USA
Why it’s powerful: With Future 22, McDonald’s hopes to inspire others to use their talent and passions to blaze trails and make a meaningful and positive mark on this world. But it’s one of many ways the brand is working to support diversity, equity and inclusion — not just in consumer-facing campaigns, but also internally.
“When we were designing [Black and Positively Golden], we talked to tons of African-American consumers. We heard from them what was important and what they cared about,” according to Williams.
“This is our renewed commitment to the African-American community and a way for us to really stand up for something that’s more than just about a campaign.”
Marketing Dive reports that McDonald’s is also expanding its work with the YWCA and investing in the group’s entrepreneurship-focused Women’s Empowerment 360 Program as well as in educational opportunities. The Black and Positively Golden Scholarship program awards $500,000 to students attending HBCUs in partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and provides employees with diploma-earning programs, tuition assistance, career services, ESL classes and more.
Now it’s your turn. How will your company commit to empowering Black communities in ways that make sense for your brand and add real value to people’s lives?