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Published Veröffentlicht 19/06/2024

Recognizing Juneteenth is a Balancing Act for Brands 

By Jessica Peraza

On June 19, we commemorated Juneteenth, the official end of slavery in the U.S., when Union soldiers arrived in Texas on June 19, 1865 to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation and free the last known enslaved African Americans. The day symbolizes freedom, emancipation, and the ongoing struggle for civil rights and equality in America. President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law in 2021, making Juneteenth an official federal holiday. Since then, brands have become increasingly vocal about commemorating the day – though they haven’t always gotten it right.  

Walmart’s infamous “Juneteenth ice cream” made headlines in 2022 and faced criticism around the commercialization of the holiday – it pulled the ice cream but opted to keep equally cringy Pan-African flag-themed paper plates and napkins on store shelves (Dollar Tree did the same). Old Navy also faced backlash and suspended a campaign after an offensive influencer pitch that went out to more than 300 Black influencers leaked. The retailer asked influencers to post themselves in Juneteenth-branded Old Navy shirts they had to buy for themselves. 

Other brands have made better judgement calls in striking the right balance, acknowledging the holiday without trivializing or commercializing. Nike’s 2020 “For Once, Don’t Do It” campaign empowered consumers to act and stand against racial injustice, and it committed $40 million to help make the Black community stronger. And Ben & Jerry’s rebranded its already impactful Change Is Brewing ice cream flavor in 2022 to advocate for voting rights and encourage young Black voter turnout ahead of mid-term elections. Pints were distributed across historically Black colleges and universities and in large cities and rural communities across Southern states in partnership with the Black Voters Matter Fund

Still, it’s a fine line between appreciation and appropriation. Most brands didn’t know about Juneteenth until a few years ago – but their Black consumers and employees did. It’s important for marketers to counsel our clients not only on what they should be doing to recognize Juneteenth, but also on how they can truly show up to support Black communities.  

A few reminders for anyone navigating these discussions: 


  • Educate and focus on the why. Understanding the significance of Juneteenth is critical before crafting a message. Juneteenth is a chance to share the history of slavery and its lasting impact. Partner with Black historians or organizations to create educational content and ensure any messaging, imagery and content published reflects the right tone. Also, be mindful that the responsibility of educating our peers about Black history is not solely on Black individuals. Encourage employees and customers to do their own research. 
  • Be respectful and amplify Black voices. Avoid trivializing Juneteenth and respect the true weight that comes with the day, as it can be difficult to re-live this history. Juneteenth presents the perfect time to elevate Black creators, artists and entrepreneurs. Of course, Black voices within your organization should be amplified year-round and not tokenized solely in these moments. 
  • Take action and commit to long-term impact. Recognizing Juneteenth should go beyond a company email or social post. Instead, it should be part of a company’s broader effort to build a more diverse and inclusive brand. Partner with Black-owned businesses, donate to causes promoting racial equity and encourage employee volunteerism as part of a paid day off to celebrate. 
  • Be Authentic. This is a great time to reflect on the facts. If your brand hasn’t historically championed diversity, focus first on internal initiatives before moving forward with external pronouncements. 


  • Commercialize. Juneteenth is not a marketing ploy. Themed gimmicks and sales tactics aren’t appropriate. 
  • Act performatively. Consumers can see through empty gestures that lack a true, lasting commitment to advancing racial equity. 
  • Publish shallow social media posts. A generic Juneteenth graphic simply won’t do. Instead, offer content and resources that are substantive and relatable to both your brand and multicultural consumer.  
  • Stay quiet. Brands sometimes worry about going about something the wrong way and opt not to say anything at all. But silence around Juneteenth speaks volumes. It’s better to acknowledge it thoughtfully than not at all. 

Navigating Juneteenth – and any other cultural moment – isn’t simple. Brands should take the time to consider a thoughtful, impactful approach. And marketers should always consider whether a gesture or campaign is in place to “check a box” or to truly impact change for the community.  

Jessica Peraza is a vice president at Allison leading the agency’s Multicultural Center of Excellence.  

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