SXSW 2021

Gender, Race, and the Modern Brand Rethink


Brands face a new urgency, and it requires a conversation that they are neither prepared for nor comfortable having. The consumer-brand relationship is now as much about identity and social values as it is about old-school marketing. The most salient vectors of change are gender and race: gender has evolved beyond the once-sacrosanct belief of a male-female binary, and the demand for racial justice has forced an unprecedented reckoning. In this session, I argue that for modern brands to thrive, their playbook must embrace how gender and race shape identity, culture, and choice among consumers and employees. Using case studies of vanguards like Target, Mastercard, and Airbnb, I plot a roadmap for leaders to rethink their brand experience and remain relevant in this new reality.

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  1. Why should brands care? Because consumers buy and employees choose firms based on what a brand stands for. Getting it wrong destroys brand value.
  2. How should brands respond? Most rush to pay lip service and then blunder. The best brands bring about the change they want to see in the world.
  3. What's the way forward? Best practices from leading brands like Target and Airbnb establish clear principles to guide a successful brand rethink.



Dipanjan Chatterjee, Vice President and Principal Analyst, Forrester

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