May 31, 2020 - Economy

Twitter, Google lead chorus of brands backing George Floyd protests

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Twitter and Google are among the dozens of brands over the past 24 hours that have taken public stances in favor of Americans protesting racial inequality. Some companies have changed their logos in solidarity with the movement, while others have pledged money in support of efforts to address social injustice.

Why it matters: The pressure that companies feel to speak out on issues has increased during the Trump era, as businesses have sought to fill a trust void left by the government. Now, some of the biggest companies are quickly taking a public stand on the protests, pressuring all other brands to do the same.

Driving the news: Twitter changed its bio to read #BlackLivesMatter, while Google added a note to its main search page that reads, "We stand in support of racial equality, and all those who search for it." YouTube said it would pledge $1 million in support of efforts to address social injustice.

  • The statements from those companies matter because they are so closely involved to the spread of public discourse around the issue.

Dozens of other brands took to social media to put out statements of solidarity.

  • In entertainment, Netflix, Twitch, HBO, Amazon Studios, Quibi, Hulu and others put out statements standing with the protests.
  • In apparel, Nike and Adidas, typically rivals, came together in solidarity with the George Floyd protestors. Adidas shared Nike's "Don't do it" video telling supporters not to be complicit with racial bigotry in America.
  • Other athletic companies like Reebok have also spoken out. Outdoor Voices, an athletic apparel brand, went viral on social media when it put out a statement saying, "Now is not the time for indoor voices."

Businesses in Minneapolis, even ones that were looted or impacted negatively by the protests, have spoken out in solidarity with the protestors.

  • Target, which is headquartered in the Twin Cities region and has seen its stores looted, put out a statement Saturday from its CEO sympathizing with the movement.
  • "We are a community in pain. That pain is not unique to the Twin Cities — it extends across America. The murder of George Floyd has unleashed the pent-up pain of years, as have the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. We say their names and hold a too-long list of others in our hearts."
  • "As a Target team, we’ve huddled, we’ve consoled, we’ve witnessed horrific scenes similar to what’s playing out now and wept that not enough is changing. And as a team we’ve vowed to face pain with purpose."
Data: Morning Consult; Chart: Kerrie Vila/Axios

Be smart: Studies show that brands have less to lose when speaking out on issues such as civil rights and gay marriage than they would when speaking out against other hot-button issues, like abortion or guns.

  • Other studies have shown that brands with the best reputations among consumers are ones that stand up for issues, regardless of whether those issues are considered liberal or progressive.

What's next: Expect more brands to feel pressure to quickly respond to the ongoing crisis with a viewpoint than they have during past nationwide racial protests.

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