Celebrating Juneteenth: Food for Thought for Your Brand


Franchises Can Celebrate Black Culture and History With Authentic Content and Genuine Marketing

Since Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021, marketers have grappled for ways to celebrate the day and simultaneously promote their brands. Many of these efforts have been flops, with consumers rejecting them as thinly disguised schemes to make a buck.

Ad Age notes that businesses have tested ice cream, head wraps and watermelon salad with Juneteenth tie-ins. But they failed because they seem opportunistic and have stereotypical vibes, according to Ad Age. Missteps that turn off Black consumers are a big deal because they spend some $1.4 trillion per year. 

What Is Juneteenth?

So what exactly is Juneteenth and how should brands approach this new holiday?

Juneteenth marks the last freeing of American slaves, which occurred June 19, 1865. That was the date when Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas, proclaimed that all slaves in the Lone Star State were freed. Texas was the final state to acknowledge emancipation so his action in effect marked the end of slavery in the United States. Black communities nationwide have for decades commemorated the event as Juneteenth (a merger of June and the 19th), and it is day that mixes fun, seriousness and a celebration of Black history.

Because of the day’s importance to Black Americans, they are often turned off when brands try to cynically leverage Juneteenth in inauthentic ways, according to another Ad Age article. This conclusion comes from Collage Group’s March survey of 3,800 Americans; of the 500-plus Blacks responding to the survey, 30% said they were suspicious of brands’ motivations when they do marketing associated with cultural holidays.

Of the Black Americans surveyed, 41% said all brands should celebrate Juneteenth; 19% said only certain companies should celebrate; and 24% said they didn’t care if brands celebrated or not. Nine percent of those surveyed said brands should never celebrate Juneteenth. Brands’ actions relating to Juneteenth should do more than “box-checking,” survey respondents stated. Instead, according to Ad Age, they should celebrate all Black cultural holidays throughout the year; commit to diversity, inclusion and equity practices; and hire Black professionals. 

Authentic Content and Genuine Marketing  

For Juneteenth-related marketing to succeed, brands need an authentic approach. They should explain the holiday and its importance, 41% of Collage Group’s Black respondents said. Thirty-eight percent said ads should present ways people can support Black Americans; 36% said brands should teach how to celebrate Juneteenth; and 35% wanted advertising to mention issues that Black Americans confront. 

Black Americans also want brands to hold or support local Juneteenth celebrations and donate proceeds to help the Black community, according to the Ad Age report on the survey. The Collage Group’s report also advises brands to team up with Black content creators throughout the year so their marketing’s Black cultural references are authentic.  

A Gold Star for Ben & Jerry’s

Collage Group applauded Ben & Jerry’s for the Juneteenth Resource Guide it posted last year. The guide explained the holiday and told about the ice cream retailer’s efforts to address reform of the criminal justice system.

For instance, the ice cream franchise’s guide calls Juneteenth “America’s True Independence Day” and includes historic milestones such as the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court Ruling that led to desegregation of public schools and ended the discriminatory separate-but-equal policy for schools. By these actions, Ben & Jerry’s revealed its awareness of Black experiences and struggles, Collage Group said in its report. 

Best Practices for Celebrating Juneteenth

To successfully woo consumers, marketers must share authentic content. They should be genuine in their advertising approach and be sensitive to the significance of Juneteenth and Black culture, Ad Age says. And the publication posted a list of best practices; following are some highlights.

Consult affluent Blacks, who are influencers and early adopters.

Acknowledge that Black immigrants are often overlooked; 10% of Black Americans are foreign-born. Blacks is a more inclusive term than African Americans.  

Check out social media and do online research to get a handle on trends in race and culture as they relate to your marketing efforts. 

Choose words carefully. Saying a Black person is “articulate” can imply that many Blacks are not.  

Build knowledge about systemic racism, a label for institutional policies and laws that treat minorities unfairly but may not be inherently racist.

Be aware of stereotypes. Blacks are disproportionately portrayed as servants, entertainers, criminals or as one-dimensional characters. When doing research for branding initiatives, involve diverse groups – employees, business leaders, investors, medical professionals, social media influencers, tech experts, engineers, teachers, etc. 

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Mary Vinnedge is an award-winning journalist who has served as editor in chief, managing editor and senior editor at national and regional publications, including SUCCESS and Design NJ magazines. She also held reporting and editing roles at The Dallas Morning News and Charlotte Observer newspapers.

Before Mary began covering franchise news and trends as a staff writer for FranchiseWire and Franchise Consultant Magazine, she developed articles on topics ranging from lifestyle, education, health and science to home projects, horticulture, gardening, interior design and architecture. These articles included her reporting on academic news at her alma mater, Texas A&M University, when Mary worked in the marketing department of the Texas A&M Foundation. She continues to be a news junkie and subscribes to several publications.

Today Mary and her husband are empty nesters living on Galveston Island near Houston. The couple’s blended family – scattered around the United States – includes five children, four grandchildren and two very spoiled, very barky miniature schnauzer rescues.
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