Red, White, Blue…and Juneteenth: Bridging the Gap in Holiday Marketing

13 February 2024

This article was written by Carrington Whigham, who studied Global Communication and Digital Media with a focus on digital racialization and mediated politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science and at The University of Southern California. This piece targets marketing professionals but is relevant for all business leaders, communicators, and social justice advocates. 

Hey there!

 

Let’s have an honest conversation about holiday marketing. We’re on the cusp of summer, and you know what that means—fireworks, BBQs, and an avalanche of 4th of July marketing campaigns to celebrate the USA’s Independence Day. But wait, hold your sparklers. Are you aware of a holiday that’s just as significant, if not more so, especially for the Black community in America?  

 

Yep, I’m talking about Juneteenth. 

Juneteenth 101: A Quick (Black) History Lesson 

For those who might need a refresher, Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day when the last enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, were informed of their freedom—two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. It is Independence Day for the Black Community. It’s a day of profound historical importance, celebrating freedom, resilience, and the enduring spirit of the Black community. 

For those wishing to know more about the history of Juneteenth, check out this link. 

The 4th of July vs Juneteenth: A Tale of Two Holidays 

Here’s the kicker: Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021. That means it’s not just a day for the history books; it’s a recognized, celebrated, and significant part of our national tapestry.

 However, Juneteenth deserves acknowledgement not just as a federal holiday but as a vital celebration for millions of Americans. Beyond its historic significance, marking the end of slavery in the United States, Juneteenth holds profound cultural and emotional importance for the African American community. Recognizing this day publicly honors our rich heritage, acknowledges past injustices, and promotes a more inclusive society. Celebrating Juneteenth sends a powerful message of unity, respect, and progress, reinforcing the ideals of freedom and equality that the nation strives to uphold.

Ignoring Juneteenth can send a message that’s louder than any marketing campaign: it says that the Black community’s history and celebrations aren’t worth the recognition. Conversely, acknowledging Juneteenth can foster a sense of inclusion and respect. It shows that your brand is not just about profits but about people, all people.

 

So, why are some companies still treating it like a footnote in their marketing playbooks and focusing solely on July 4th? 

 

We get it—the 4th of July is a marketing goldmine. Who doesn’t love fireworks, hot dogs, and a good ol’ red, white, and blue celebration? But here’s the deal: while you’re planning those star-spangled campaigns, remember that your Black consumers are keenly watching how you handle—or sideline—Juneteenth.  

Social reformer Fredrick Douglass once asked, “What to a slave is the fourth of July?” 

 

July 4th granted independence for some and not for all. The contrast is stark: mountains of marketing dollars are poured into the 4th of July, but a trickle, if any, is spent on Juneteenth. It’s not just a missed opportunity; it’s a glaring oversight. 

Genuine Acknowledgement: It’s Tricky but Worth It 

Now, I hear you. “It’s tricky,” you say. “We don’t want to come off as insincere or, worse, performative.” And you’re right. A half-hearted nod to Juneteenth is worse than no mention at all. But with thought, time, and a genuine approach, acknowledging Juneteenth can be both meaningful and impactful. 

 

So how can you do it? 

1. Start with Education: Understand the significance of Juneteenth. This isn’t just another day off; it’s a celebration of freedom and a vital part of American history.Some resources to get started:  

2. Engage with Authenticity: Collaborate with Black creators and communities. Show that you’re not just ticking a box but genuinely valuing the holiday’s importance.

3. Creative Meaningful Campaigns: Think beyond the typical and strive for impact-driven campaigns. How about sharing stories of Black resilience and achievements or highlighting Black-owned businesses? Make it memorable and meaningful. 

A Little Goes a Long Way 

Remember, you don’t have to overhaul your entire marketing strategy. Sometimes, a small, genuine gesture can make a huge difference. Acknowledging Juneteenth in your marketing isn’t just a nice thing to do; it’s the right thing to do.  

 

And trust me, your consumers will notice. 

 

Acknowledging Juneteenth demonstrates your commitment to diversity and inclusion, which can enhance your brand’s reputation and trustworthiness. Consumers are increasingly supporting brands that align with their values, which could lead to increased customer retention and growth.  

So, as you break out the fireworks and plan your 4th of July campaigns, don’t let Juneteenth fly under your radar. It’s time to give this day the recognition it deserves—because freedom, in all its forms, is worth celebrating. 

 

 

Ready to embrace Juneteenth in your marketing strategy? Share your thoughts, successes, and challenges in the comments below. Let’s make this conversation lead to real change! #Juneteenth #MarketingStrategy #InclusionMatters 

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