It happened with Starbucks. And Pepsi. Then H&M. And most recently Walmart.

All of these huge brands faced significant backlash for ‘tone-deaf’ campaigns that were supposed to make Black people feel included, but ultimately wound up offending many of us.

Gauge, a Black-owned tech company that advises big names like Snapchat, Sephora, P&G, and others recently convened a roundtable of experts to speak on the ramifications of brand hiccups, particularly within context to Juneteenth, a sacred holiday for many Black people.

Panelists included April Reign — Creator of #OscarsSoWhite, Branden Harvey — Founder and CEO of Good Good Good, Bobby Carlton — XR/VR Content Manager at FS Studio & Writer at VRScout, Frederick Joseph — New York Times Bestselling Author and Candice Benbow — Bestselling Author & Theologian.

“It keeps happening because the right people are not in the rooms when decisions are made, and that’s the bottom line,” Reign said. “There is a gap between brands, corporations and consumers, and that’s because brands just aren’t listening.”

Joseph also pointed out that often times brands often conflate representation for actual input and influence, which is what get them in trouble.

“Blackness is not monolithic,” he begins. “So, it’s important to not just have one person who’s Black in the room providing input.”

Joseph made the point that larger campaign conversations in brand corporations have to be a varied discussion.

“Understand that you have to do things such as focus groups, and be in the community. When you’re not doing that, it almost makes it worse than doing nothing.”

The conversation also highlighted the long-term impact of brand missteps during what’s supposed to be a time of celebration for Black Americans.

“A year from now I hope that brands and companies realize that holidays mean so much more to the communities beyond just the day,” Benbrow said. “We’ve been celebrating Juneteenth for years. It is synonymous with freedom and family. And I’m going home this weekend to celebrate Juneteenth because I’ve always done it as a family, and Covid-19 took that from us the last two years. We’re excited to be able to be together. So, for these brands with power and influence, this a call to action to use what you have to invest in people who are critically engaged in their communities and are making a change.”

More information about the event can be found at Gauge.AI.