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What brands can do to support marginalised young people all year round

Young people kneel together in support of #blacklivesmatter.

From the Black Lives Matter protests in the US and worldwide, to the arrival of Pride Month, June has begun with conversation firmly focused on what we can do to support marginalised communities. We’re seeing unprecedented numbers of brands taking a stand on social media, openly declaring their allegiance to these movements, and urging followers to take meaningful action.

For the past few years, experts have been urging brands to show consumers what they believe in. This is especially important for those marketing to the younger generation, who are reliant on us to make a better world for them as they reach adulthood. Our research consistently shows that Gen Z are more loyal to brands that share their own values.

However, these smart young consumers see through any transparent attempt to jump on a bandwagon. They want to see brands taking action year-round, not just during Blackout Tuesday or Pride Month, and they want proof that these purported brand values are more than just a marketing campaign. Here are our recommendations for how brands can meaningfully support young people from marginalised groups throughout the year.

1. Give young people a platform

The last thing that marginalised communities want is for brands to turn up and co-opt existing movements for their own PR purposes. Instead, use your platform to amplify voices from the community, raising awareness of their issues and the initiatives they have already put in place. This demonstrates that your brand is a true ally, and enables you to connect with the youth activist community in a respectful and appropriate way.

2. Put your money where your mouth is

As it becomes increasingly fashionable to align with equal rights campaigns, it can become a ‘tick box’ part of a brand’s youth marketing strategy, with events such as Pride, Mental Health Week and Black History Month treated simply as dates for the diary. From rainbow flag logos to feminist hashtag t-shirts, young people have seen it all before. They expect these statements to be backed up by genuine action, such as financial support for existing campaigns, charity partnerships, diverse hiring schemes and strict equality policies.

3. Embrace diverse audiences

Every brand has the power to make young people from all backgrounds feel welcome and acknowledged through their products and marketing. This will differ for each brand, but some examples that have impressed us include ASOS’s modest fashion and gender-neutral collections, and Fenty Beauty’s inclusive make-up range that caters to all skin tones and genders. This is not just the ethical thing to do, but a smart business decision, as it broadens the target demographic for your brand.

4. Make change in your own organisation

Many companies that want to be associated with causes like Black Lives Matter and Pride don’t realise that before they look to create external change, they should be looking internally at how their own business could improve on these issues. Diversity and inclusion in the workplace can have a huge impact on creating more social mobility within society, as well as bringing your employees together across demographic divides to strengthen and diversify company culture.

Here at Student Beans, we are supporting a number of equal rights campaigns and organisations, including the fight for justice for George Floyd. Find out more and make a donation.

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