Taking a Stand on Racial Equality

November 21, 2017

By Bill Duggan

Tide’s “Wash Away Labels” campaign addressed negative stereotypes associated with Hispanics. MarketingUp/YouTube.com


At the recent ANA Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference, Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at P&G, addressed how the company is taking a stand on racial equality through its advertising.

Marc provided the perspective that the United States is at a cultural crossroads. On one hand, multicultural consumers are the fastest growing segments of the population and will very soon become the majority. They are growing in economic and political power. On the other hand, the forces of prejudice and bigotry are creating divisiveness and conflict while threatening progress that has been made for decades.

Brands and companies now have an important opportunity and responsibility to make a difference. Doing so can be good for society and good for business. Equality means equal opportunity, equal representation, equal voices, equal pay, and equal respect. The economic impact of achieving economic racial equality in the U.S. is worth $2.1 trillion in wages and additional purchasing power. In other words, equality is not only a force for good, but also a force for growth, so it makes sense for a company like P&G to address racial equality.

P&G has made the choice to step up and use its voice in advertising as a force for good and a force for growth to promote racial equality by directly addressing racial bias. That advertising is helping to promote conversations, influence attitudes, and change behavior.

A great example is the Tide “Wash Away Labels” work that addresses the bias of “labels” that some people put on Hispanics, such as “gardener” and “drug dealer.” The work says: “We are all equal. People shouldn’t be labeled. Labels are stains. Positive labels are the only ones that should exist.”


This was powerful work that affected Marc personally — he told the audience at the conference that he is half Mexican. His father was Mexican-American but was adopted by a man with an English name. Growing up, Marc had the opportunity to live between white and Latino cultures. But when he entered the workforce he suppressed his Mexican heritage for fear of being labeled because he heard denigrating terms used throughout his life. So the Tide work hit home and caused Marc to come to grips with his own biases and attitudes. Marc decided to share his personal story and open up a dialogue within P&G because when leaders step up to talk about tough issues like bias, it gives other people permission and emotional safety to talk, change attitudes, and address bad behavior.

Another example is P&G’s multi-brand My Black is Beautiful platform, which shines a light on racial bias faced by African-Americans. The work focuses on “the talk” that black parents in America constantly have to prepare their children for the prejudice that they will face. This film has an important purpose — to promote conversation. Because conversation leads to understanding, understanding leads to changing attitudes, attitude change leads to behavior change, and behavior change leads to positive action.

With "The Talk," P&G's My Black is Beautiful platform shed light on conversations African-American parents have with their children regarding bias. My Black is Beautiful/YouTube.com

Marc identified three key actions that P&G is taking on racial equality:

  1. P&G is dramatically increasing the racial diversity in its everyday advertising. Over time, this will make images of diversity the norm and not the exception.
  2. The company is developing products and advertising to meet the unique needs of diverse consumers. An example is Pantene Gold Series shampoo, made specifically for the characteristics of black hair.
  3. P&G is taking head-on the unique challenge that the United States must address — racial inequality driven by racial bias. The company can bring awareness to these issues and use that awareness to spur action to either stop or mitigate prejudicial attitudes and behavior.

In closing, Marc encouraged his fellow marketers to have the courage to focus on a conversation about race in America, as we can use our voices and reach for good while driving growth, if done well.

A previous blog focused on other aspects of Marc’s keynote titled, “Marc Pritchard Busts Multicultural Marketing Myths (with $1 billion in sales growth possible).”

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