Sailing in rough seas: how brands can navigate churning waters

“There’s three things you can do when life sends a wave at you. You can run from it, but then it’s going to catch up and knock you down. You can also fall back on your ego and try to stand your ground, but then it’s still going to clobber you. Or you can use it as an opportunity to go deep and transform yourself to match the circumstances.”

- Humans of New York

It’s been a tough year. While we were still adjusting to a world in the grip of a pandemic, the sand stirred beneath our feet and the demand for social change engulfed us like a wave finally crashing ashore.

The Black community and their allies worldwide have staged protests and toppled statues highlighting centuries of injustice. Clearly, this is long overdue. Nonetheless, many organizations have been caught off guard and found themselves swept out to sea – lost, afraid and not sure in which direction to swim.

We’ve seen brands praised for their timely and authentic responses. Some have been called out for apparent insincerity. For still others, careless actions have proved costly.

So, what’s a brand to do?

We talk a lot here about brand purpose – and we believe that this should define your response. It’s certainly defining ours.


You might feel pressured to join the conversation and say something – anything! But before you release your statement of support, take a look in the mirror. Does your business reflect your commitment to the cause? Do your actions support efforts for equality and equity? Can you prove it?

If you talk the talk but can’t walk the walk, make sure you’re doing the work before you weigh in.


How can you lend your brand voice in support? Develop a strategy that’s authentic to you. For example, you could:

  • Donate or match employee donations to organizations working to bring about change.
  • Fund research or initiatives to provide opportunities for underrepresented people in your business or industry.
  • Let employees, partners and customers know that you are committed to doing better and set a date to outline how.

Ask yourself: what does success look like? How can we hold ourselves accountable?


These steps aren’t easy – for any of us. Success requires commitment, effort, speed and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

We encourage brands to not be silent for fear of saying the wrong thing. At a moment like this, silence is complicity. At the very least, your employees deserve to be reminded that you hear, see and support them.

But before you move, take the opportunity to reflect on where you are, decide on a strategy to get you where you want to be and use your brand platform to amplify those voices that are too often silenced.

In our business, we talk a lot about 'the why'.

This time, it's simple – because it's the right thing to do.