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Insights & Innovation: Vox Media research shows its audiences’ perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement

Photo credit: Mel D. Cole @meldcole

America is going through an unprecedented time: a pandemic, economic downturn, and now a societal movement confronting racial injustice. The killing of George Floyd became a catalyst for hundreds of thousands of people around the world to march and take a stand against police brutality and for racial justice. In this context, we spoke to ~1,000 Vox Media consumers to understand their perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement.

UNIVERSAL SUPPORT FOR BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT

Our audience feels activated by the Black Lives Matter movement and — although many say they are taking action — the complexity of this issue leaves many wondering how they can support and/or drive meaningful and lasting change.

Our users want to and/or are responding to the nationwide Black Lives Matter demonstrations:

  • 94% are looking for ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement;
  • 62% have donated to a social justice organization;
  • Half of our audience knows someone who attended a demonstration and 18% personally participated in the demonstrations;
  • 50% say they would have participated in a demonstration, but they were concerned about COVID-19 contagion.

Our audience is strongly affected by the movement, with 73% saying they’ve had trouble focusing on work and life since the demonstrations started. Distraction notwithstanding, 77% say the demonstrations make them feel more unity with their communities and motivate them to do something. But many in our audience aren’t sure what that “something” should be. 63% feel uncertain about “how to make things better.”

THIS TIME WILL REQUIRE UNDERSTANDING AND EXPLANATION

Vox Media consumers state that they would like to understand several facets of the Black Lives Matter movement more deeply. As an example, when it comes to the recent protests, our audiences are curious about:

  • Actions they can take in support of the Black Lives Matter movement (94%);
  • Details on related events (95%);
  • Info on brands that support the Black Lives Matter movement (79%)

Our audience wants Vox Media to explore or explain topics such as:

Systemic Aspects of Racial Inequality

  • 85% want to know the economic impact of racial injustice;
  • 84% want to hear potential solutions to racial injustice;
  • 81% are interested in the role of politics and government in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Our Personal Connections to Inequality

  • 79% want to hear personal stories from Black Americans;
  • 77% want to know the definition and the impact of “white privilege;”

History and Nuances of the Movement

  • 81% want to learn about the history of racial injustice in America;
  • 71% seek to understand the difference between racist attitudes and racist actions;
  • 64% want more information on the origins of Black Lives Matter.

DIGITAL IS CRITICAL

In the week this research was conducted, June 4-8, our audience universally (~91%) kept up to date through digital media.

However, the weight of what’s happening on social platforms is causing 25% of Gen Z and Millennials to actually spend less time on social media (compared to just 17% of persons over 40 years of age).

Perhaps this reflects younger generations’ greater participation in the demonstrations, with twice as many Gen Z and Millennials saying they attended a demonstration (19%) compared to those 40+ years old (8%).

BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT & BRANDS

Several companies are demonstrating support for the Black Lives Matter movement on their social media feeds, and via press releases, and emails. As brands consider how to engage, four out of five Vox Media consumers believe brands have a place in the debate on racial injustice.

A near universal 94% believe brands should not avoid taking positions on racial injustice — but taking a stand requires action. In fact, 94% of the Vox Media audience also agrees that brands need to take action on racial injustice, not just make statements.

The strength of these perceptions is even stronger by Gen Z and Millennials. While 84% of persons age 40+ years say brands need to take action, 95% of persons under age 40 expect more than words from the brands they buy.

Overall, 89% of our readers state that they are “sick of brands talking about, but not doing anything about, racial injustice.”

BRAND PURPOSE EVOLVING INTO BRAND JUSTICE*

In our last study, we wrote about COVID-19 accelerating consumer change – such as telecommuting and grocery delivery – as well as shifting consumers’ perceptions of brands.

The current movement for racial justice appears to be having a similar impact. “Branding” is evolving from meaning something (purpose) to doing something (justice and action). We see this with 86% of our audience agreeing that making great products is no longer enough; brands also need to make society better.

In relation to the Black Lives Matter movement, Vox Media consumers have expectations for brands:

  • 93% say brands should contact Congress or government leaders;
  • 93% say brands should create programs to help people impacted by racial injustice;
  • 92% want companies to offer employees racial awareness training;
  • 87% want brands to offer suggestions on what consumers can do to support Black Lives Matter.

The Vox Media audience also plans to speak with their dollars: 66% state they will buy more from brands that donate money to the Black Lives Matter movement, compared to just 38% who will buy more from brands that just show ads in support.

PURPOSE

Vox Media exists to ensure that voices are heard, stories are told, and truths are shared. We stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues, family members, neighbors and friends in declaring Black Lives Matter. We conducted the following research to better understand what kinds of stories, information, and resources our audience is looking for during this moment, and will hopefully continue to seek out, over time.

METHODOLOGY
A quantitative survey was fielded June 2020, to the proprietary Vox Media Survey Panel. Total of 953 respondents. Survey error is +/- 5% at the 95% confidence level. *NOTE: Brand Purpose to Brand Justice concept attributed to BRANDThro: Billee Howard.

Nichole Becker and Preetisha Sen contributed to this article.


Photo: James Bareham / Vox Media

Edwin Wong is Senior Vice President, Insights & Innovation at Vox Media, the leading independent modern media company known for building the best media brands and the technology that enables them. He leads research to identify key trends in consumer behavior and help advertisers capitalize on these trends to effectively connect with their core audiences. He has been studying digital consumer behavior for nearly 20 years and has held previous roles at BuzzFeed, Pinterest and Yahoo.