TEGNA: Marketing Amidst a Movement

Tech Brands Use Unique Ways to Communicate Black Lives Matter

TEGNA | June 23, 2020

In this installment of  ‘Marketing Amidst a Movement’ we take a look at the technology industry’s responses to the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, including brands like Apple, YouTube and Spotify.

TEGNA dedicates our ‘Marketing Amidst a Movement’ series is dedicated to the minority-owned businesses we support across our markets, partners, and clients. We celebrate our partners’ resilience and determination and join in their commitment to building more diverse marketplaces across our communities. Part of our commitment includes a $100,000 donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and another $75,000 to the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.  


Historically and on average, brands in America steered clear from messaging on controversial topics. Many carefully avoided politics and sensitive issues like civil unrest, protests, and rioting. Today, in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of former Minneapolis police officers, brands around the globe are shifting course and taking a stand against racial inequality and systemic racism.   

A new era of brand activism has begun and TEGNA Marketing Solutions is taking a sector by sector look at how this era is unfolding. In this installment of  ‘Marketing Amidst a Movement’ we take a look at the technology industry’s responses to the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.    

Apple Changes Siri’s Answer to ‘Do Black Lives Matter?’ 

As one of the largest tech companies in the world, Apple took a unique position to help start a positive dialog. On top of a tweet announcing the creation of a $100 million program – Racial Equity and Justice Initiative – to support education, economic opportunity, and criminal reform initiatives, Apple changed voice assistant Siri’s answer to the question, “Do Black lives matter?” When a consumer asks the question, Siri replies with a simple “Yes” and shares a link to the Black Lives Matter website.  

Microsoft’s Voice Assistant, as well as Amazon’s Alexa, have also changed their answers to the question, and are providing more resources to educate consumers on race in America.  

Amazon Bans Police from Using its Facial Recognition Tech 

Like Apple, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has committed $10 million to relevant organizations, made statements in support of the Black community, and more interestingly, banned police from using its facial recognition technology for a year, giving Congress time to weigh in. It will, however, continue to let the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children use the technology to help reunite missing children and human trafficking victims with their families.  

“We’ve advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology, and in recent days, Congress appears ready to take on this challenge,” the company wrote in a statement on its blog. “We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested.” 

YouTube Commits $100 Million to Amplify Black Voices 

Out of all the major tech companies, YouTube’s donation could be the largest – $100 million dedicated to “protect and amplify Black voices, and to make YouTube a safer, more inclusive space,” the company said in a tweet.  

Reddit Heeds Call For Black Leadership 

The tech industry has long been criticized for its lack of diversity. But Reddit took definitive steps to address this when its co-founder Alexis Ohanian stepped down from the board in support of Black Lives Matter and called for a black leader to replace him. That leader is African American tech entrepreneur Michael Seibel.    

“I’ve watched Reddit become part of the core fabric of the internet,” Seibel said in Reddit’s announcement, “and I’m excited to help provide advice and guidance as Reddit continues to grow and tackle the challenges of bringing community and belonging to a broader audience.”   

Reddit CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman shared in the excitement too. “Few people have Michael’s deep background in tech and know the challenges and opportunities we face as well as he does, so we are honored he is joining us. Not to mention, he is one of the smartest and kindest people in tech.” 

Spotify Observes Blackout Tuesday, Faces Criticism 

In observance of Blackout Tuesday, a day designed to down out social media with black squares and silence, Spotify added silent tracks eight minutes and 45-seconds long to observe the time George Floyd was suffocated. The streaming music platform also changed its logo for the day and promoted “Today’s Top Hits” and “Rap Caviar” playlists to amplify Black voices.  

“We are using the power of our platform to stand with black creators, amplify their voices, and accelerate meaningful conversation and long-needed change,” Spotify said in an emailed statement to AdAge.   

However, many argued online that the effort wasn’t enough, most notably R&B singer The Weeknd, saying in an Instagram post, “To my fellow respected industry partners and execs- no one profits off of black music more than the labels and streaming services. I gave yesterday and I urge you to go big and public with yours this week. It would mean the world to me and the community if you can join us on this” 



Do you have thoughts you’d like to share on how companies are responding to issues presented by the George Floyd movement? We’d love to hear from you. Click here to share your perspective. 

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