Think about where you get your inspiration
Cultural appreciation or appropriation?
Cultural appropriation is using an element of another culture for some kind of benefit (sales, status, etc.), especially without crediting the people who created that culture, making them part of what you’re doing and sharing the benefit. This is especially problematic when that element is sacred (e.g., White models in Native American headdresses).
Are you an invader, a tourist or a guest?
Diantha Day Sprouse uses a travel analogy that helps us think about how we’re approaching a community that’s not our own.
Tourists pay their way but can be careless. Best case, they’re honest about being outsiders and ask for directions. Some become guests.
Guests are invited. Their relationships with their hosts can become long-term, often reciprocal commitments.
Becoming a guest takes work:
- Do your homework so you can be a good partner.
- Collaborate, compensate and credit.
- Even if you have the best intentions, you and your brand might never be invited in by certain communities. Don’t just barge in.
Learn from other brands
Non-Native American brands shouldn’t use Native American imagery in their ads—especially if you’re gonna name your product after one of the earliest and most common slurs used against Native Americans.
Nike isn’t an inherently Black brand, and using Colin Kaepernick’s fight for racial justice to sell sneakers could have gone terribly wrong. But they did a lot right. They’ve invested in equality efforts for years. Kaepernick was a Nike-sponsored athlete for years before this ad. Nike made Kaepernick a partner and pulled a shoe design when he criticized it for featuring the Betsy Ross flag, which had been co-opted by racist groups. And they didn’t back down when people threatened to boycott Nike over the ad. But many criticized the brand for not specifically addressing the police brutality Kaepernick was fighting against and for previously offering a #LawEnforcementAppreciationDay sale.
Remember when Kendall Jenner solved racism and police brutality with a Pepsi? Yeah, not only was that ad silly, it also appropriated the civil rights and Black Lives Matter movements and pushed a “White savior” narrative. Not cool.
Beats by Dre “You Love Me”
Beats is inherently part of the Black community, so making a major cultural statement in this gorgeous gut-punch of an ad was 100% on brand. And it was created by an all-star roster of Black talent.
Kung Fu Vagina
If the name wasn’t enough to offend you… Early in 2021, the video promoting (White) sex coach Kim Anami’s online course featured women dressed in stereotypical (and inaccurate) Asian clothing, wearing chopsticks in their hair (they’re for eating) and singing along to a parody of “Kung Fu Fighting” (the original song is also racist, in case you were wondering). The video also mixed and matched Asian elements like they were all the same and even featured a stereotypical font.
The Spanish telecommunications company and England Rugby sponsor paid tribute to samurai culture in their 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign. This made sense because the tournament was in Japan and England’s coach is half-Japanese and adheres to principles from the Bushido samurai code. To make sure they got the details right, the creative team consulted samurai experts throughout the making of the ad.
Becoming Culturally Fluent
Creating for Accessibility