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Not optional: Why brands must activate on AAPI Heritage Month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in the United States. Until recently, most brands didn’t engage on this topic, even during the month of May. Recent events have changed that; the hashtag #StopAsianHate has become a rallying cry for a social movement, and businesses are engaging too.

Now, it’s time for brands who used #StopAsianHate to turn their words into actions. These businesses must activate on AAPI Heritage Month by celebrating the event, highlighting AAPI employees, and sharing resources and/or concrete steps to support the community both internally and externally. If your brand didn’t speak out, this is a great opportunity to start supporting the community.

Racism against the AAPI community cannot be ignored

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 created wide-spread racist rhetoric which led to a rise in hate crimes against members of the AAPI community. In fact, they’ve increased by 1,900%, and hate crimes overall have risen to their highest level in over a decade in the United States.

In March 2021, a shooter killed eight people, including six Asian-American women, in a spa in Atlanta. In the four weeks that followed, there were ~545K mentions of “Stop Asian Hate” across Twitter.

Khoros Intelligence shows a significant spike in use of the phrase
Khoros Intelligence shows a significant spike in use of the phrase "Stop Asian Hate" on Twitter following the Atlanta shooting.

In today’s cultural climate, sitting out is no longer an option

If you’re on a content marketing team at your brand, chances are you were involved in making a statement of support for the AAPI community during that sensitive moment. Many brands and organizations made heartfelt statements, and some even pledged their support to a grieving community. Audiences were generally receptive to these statements, praising organizations for speaking up when the community needed it:

Standing up to racism is no longer optional for brands in 2021. Consumers expect the brands they engage with to be engaged with their communities, and to be allies to historically marginalized groups. In order to be good allies, brands must stand with the Asian community — and all communities of color — all the time, not only during moments of crisis and heartache. People of color deserve to be seen and heard in joyful and triumphant moments outside of national tragedy. Now that social conversation has begun to die down and #StopAsianHate is no longer trending, how will your brand show continued support to this community year-round?

Now more than ever, customers expect brands to speak up as allies, with studies showing that customers are 75% more likely to remember, purchase from, and want to work for a brand with a strong purpose. Posting messages of solidarity is a great start, but brands must create and foster long-term commitments to ethical and inclusive business practices. Moments like #StopAsianHate cannot be one-off events if we want to effect real change. In order to demonstrate an authentic commitment, brands must have year-long plans to uplift and empower marginalized communities.

As AAPI Heritage Month approaches this May, we implore all brands, particularly those that posted about #StopAsianHate, to join in celebrating this community — in their actions as well as their words.

How brands activated in 2020

Last year, several brands activated on AAPI Heritage Month by highlighting creators in their fields and celebrating the diverse voices they bring to the table. While using their unique brand voices, these brands were able to speak to the AAPI community while focusing on the topics that make sense for their audience (e.g., musicians for Spotify).

  • Spotify created several curated playlists highlighting AAPI creators in conjunction with a blog discussing the motivations and inspiration for their campaign.

  • TikTok hosted a live event hosted by popular musician Saweetie to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: 

  • Hulu celebrated AAPI actors and actresses in a tweet and showcased AAPI movies and shows throughout the month in a dedicated homepage section.

  • Cartoon Network shared a tweet celebrating AAPI kids who connect with their culture through food, and highlighted their “Drawn To” series which is narrated by a Korean American actress.

Brands should celebrate AAPI Heritage Month this year and going forward. Here are a few strategies to get started:

1. Avoid corporate pandering

Activating on AAPI Heritage Month on social media is a fantastic start, but in order to avoid accusations of virtue signaling, it’s important to show up for communities of color year-round.

When sharing messages of solidarity, share resources and/or be transparent about the steps that your brand is taking to support the community. Audiences will perceive blanket statements with no action behind them as inauthentic performative activism.

2. Spotlight AAPI voices in your field

Who are some notable Asian/Pacific Islanders in your field of work, and how can you amplify their voices? Do you have any internal employee resource groups to help shape your narrative? If you do not currently, then this is an opportunity to reach out to employees and support the initiation of one.

3. Be inclusive

The term “Asian” encompasses many countries and cultures around the world, but has historically centered on the East Asian diaspora. When sharing AAPI resources or amplifying causes, be sure to recognize South Asians, Southeast Asians, and Pacific Islanders as part of the AAPI community.

4. Educate by diversifying your feed

Following diverse accounts is a great way to find educational resources to share with your audience. Here are some accounts that focus on Asian pop culture and current events:

5. Go one step further and donate

Donations make a tangible difference to communities! Here are some organizations that could use your help fighting for the AAPI community:

Participating in and supporting important cultural moments, such as AAPI Heritage Month, is crucial in a world where consumers place value on purpose-driven brands that strive to do social good. It can be difficult to navigate a constantly evolving cultural landscape, but with these steps, your team can be a leader in the social landscape and as prepared as possible for moments that uplift and empower marginalized communities.

If your brand needs any help determining your approach to an inclusive social media strategy, see what Khoros Strategic Services can do for you.

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