Community

Dear Bath and Body Works

Whew, chile.

You tried, but who approved your Black History Month campaign?

This is equivalent to y’all crashing the cookout and having the audacity to bring potato salad with raisins AND expect us to eat it (If you don’t understand this reference and you don’t have a brown or Black person in your boardroom or friend circle that can explain it– therein lies your first problem). While you did make an effort to recognize Black History Month (BHM), your marketing leadership missed the mark and opportunity to truly celebrate vs just recognize Black History Month. 

BHM celebrates the accomplishments of Black Americans past, present, and future. It presents an opportunity when everyone can invest, empower, educate, and provide exposure and progress for Black businesses, educational institutions, non-profits, and individuals. Black Americans are still largely underrepresented and discriminated against in American society so this is a special time to recognize both our struggles and triumphs.

Photo courtesy of Twitter

There were some in the Black community in favor of the Bath and Body Works (BBW) campaign and display saying it was “dope.” These supporters loved the prints and gave kudos to BBW for recognizing BHM and contributing $500k to the National Urban League and Columbus Urban League.

A user named Facebook user named Micah Berkley gave some “facts”about the the campaign in response to the outrage. I think the irony is, if any of this is true, why didn’t BBW think it was important to show their collaborations? 

We don’t know how he knows and what’s true or false, and where he fit into this, but here’s what he claims: 

A large majority of Black Americans and their allies referred to the entire marketing campaign as:  “fake diversity, performative, a money grab, an epic fail, black face to the max, lazy and generic, icky, capitalizing off of Black history, corporate pandering, disappointing, disrespectful, tone-deaf” and more. 

As people of color, we agree with the latter from both a mass communications, graphic design, and media relations professional point of view. 

Here are some of our qualms.

The Graphic Designs

Did you guys consult with a Black graphic designer or formula this design with other people of color who understood the significance of Black History Month? 

We don’t know who designed this because you didn’t tell us.

Where is the Black representation? The above poster claims a Black-owned firm orchestrated this project, but where’s the proof and why wasn’t this mentioned until AFTER the outrage?

This would have been a great opportunity to show Black collaborations and uplift Black business. It would be very empowering to see the work of a Black graphic artist to provide exposure to Black business and support the Black community.

Where’s the additional media besides the store displays and email marketing?

And just our opinion …

African prints are colorful and beautiful but also an oxymoron if referring to the Black experience. The majority of Black people can’t trace their roots back to Africa. Nameless cattle is how slaves were listed and our generational lines are complex and hard to trace back to a certain tribe. Many can’t claim pride in the print of a certain tribe. It’s beautiful print and cloth but not something synonymous with connecting our history in America…the irony. 

The Products

The products that are a part of this collection are not new scents but repackaged current scents. BBW charges consumers up to $1 more for this collection. 

Christmas and other seasons have exclusive scents, but BBW really repackaged the Eucalyptus Mint 3-wick candle and charged us a dollar more.

Y’all missed the mark!

Could this have been a month where you collaborated with Black candle makers to create a few unique scents reminiscent of our culture?

This was a missed opportunity to use your platform to provide exposure and uplift the Black community. 

Inclusion and Diversity

These words became trendy in the past decade among the height of race relations in America.

Companies have told us they are committed to and believe in diversity, inclusion, and equality, but few SHOW us how they are actually enforcing their practices at both the top and lower levels of their company. We are talking more than just hiring Black people and other minority groups, but acknowledging and respecting their input, creativity, and culture as a valuable addition to your team.

We pray y’all are doing this internally BBW. If so, again, show us. We saw the few Black employee quotes in your e-mail marketing with quotes beside their heads saying “Thanks for doing something for Black History Month,” sticking to these promises is something few companies have followed through with on showing and not just telling.

BBW where are your success stories from using Diverse Suppliers? Where are the Black and brown faces that benefit from the programs you’ve outlined in your diversity initiatives? I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, but we want to see it. That’s worth celebrating. That’ll show and not just tell your Black consumers that you truly believe in Diversity and Inclusion.

The Lack of Black

The handful of employees of color quoted in your e-mail marketing and advertisement wasn’t celebrated but were celebrating BBW’s effort to recognize Black History Month through the products and labels.

Where were the Black stories?

Don’t know what we are talking about. Observe how other big companies understood and executed the assignment.

Corps that got it right for BHM

Amazon: “My Black is______” Campaign

This is the highlight of collaboration… giving up your platform to both give exposure to and celebrate others. 

Amazon selected 10 Black businesses/brands per category to highlight throughout February each business owner to finish the sentence: My Black is _____.  

Target

 Featured a limited line from Black designers and small businesses.

QVC and HSN are highlighting Black-owned brands as part of the company’s Small Business Spotlight program. Approximately 12 Black-owned businesses outside of Qurate Retail Group’s vendor base will share their brand stories live on-air on QVC and HSN or on QVC2 and will be featured in a special, month-long event on Zulily.

Nordstrom

Nordstrom has launched a series of campaigns for Black History Month. To highlight its diverse community of staff and consumers, the retailer is engaging with communities and highlighting Black-owned brands, Black food culture, and stories among its Black employees. Nordstrom is also increasing monetary contributions to organizations that promote anti-racism.

Under Armour

is titled “Be Seen, Be Heard, Be Celebrated,” and it includes colorful tees in men’s, women’s and kids’ sizes, along with limited-edition unisex HOVR shoes and Curry Flow sneakers. “This collection is all Black creative-led,” DerRick Turner, Creative Design Lead at UA, said. “It remains authentic to their story. And it’s truly a representation of them.”

We could go on but, it comes off as your public relations team came up short. 

Do you see why everyone is upset? It looks like a minimum effort to say you did something and to turn a profit. 

Next year, please do better.

What would have been cooler was if… they collected and showcased black stories in relation to said products.

For example: “When we started a new school in third grade we tried hard to fit in. My knees were always ashy after gym. Every week, a classmate gave me the “Lusk” hand lotion from BBW to keep my skin moist and beautiful. We’re still friends today.”

How hard is that? Vaseline did this! 

Danielle Meadows-Stinnett, Octane Design Studios

We urge everyone for Black History Month to reach out to small black business owners and support them, educate yourself, and big brand companies don’t make Black History Month a money-making scheme. You have a platform and responsibility and if you are going to recognize and celebrate Black History Month … do it right.

Real Black Candlemakers to support:

Uptown Candles: Uptowncandles.com

Serenity Scent Candles on Etsy

Ankara Scents: https://ankarascents.com

Philacandleco: https://philadelphiacandle.co

TN Sacred Candle Co: https://www.tncsacredcandles.com

Designer, blogger, crafter & content creator. Follow @octanedesigns on IG