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Snapchat Blackface - Sticking to your Message

Snapchat, a privately owned, venture-backed start-up is popular among young social media users. It specializes in visual images that can be manipulated and expire rapidly. It offers many filters to add to selfies, like rainbow tongues, top hats and skeleton bones.

The app has 100 million daily users who are sending 2 billion photos and videos per day. Snapchat stories content is being viewed 500 million times per day. Recent statistics claim Snapchat hit 7 billion daily video views.

Critics claim Snapchat’s Bob Marley filter is playing into a stereotype of the reggae legend. Perhaps. But according to Snapchat that was not their intent. Multiple media outlets including major players such as USA Today, Fox News, CNN and popular emerging technology, science, art, and culture outlets such as The Verge and Wired, published their stories with the same message from Snapchat.

“The lens we launched today was created in partnership with the Bob Marley Estate, and gives people a new way to share their appreciation for Bob Marley and his music," said the statement. "Millions of Snapchatters have enjoyed Bob Marley's music, and we respect his life and achievements."

Not one media outlet printed a different quote. This means Snapchat was prepared and understood the risk it was taking.

With millions of marketing dollars being invested to reach and motivate audiences, making sure your message sticks is paramount. Here are three things organizations should do to ensure marketing investments succeed.

  1. Sell your message internally
    Tell your staff what the message is, before you launch. Explain your reasons for the message and why you have decided to do what you are doing. Employees need to hear the same message inside that is going outside. Build trust.
  2. Repeat, repeat, repeat
    Keep your message consistent and do not waver. Do not change your message midstream because you don’t like the reactions. If the message is correct and supports your brand – what you stand for – then stick with it. Build credibility.
  3. Remember who delivered your message
    Just because your message wasn’t loved doesn’t mean you ignore the messenger. Track all of your marketing responses and coverage and make sure you re-connect with them in the near future. There is no value in sticking your head in the sand. The relationship has begun, now build upon it. There will be more messages.

    Well-designed communications provide employees with the tools for a stronger and more consistent brand. When it is consistent with the organization’s brand, and consistently delivered, then it is able to enhance positioning and competitiveness.

Janet is an Ottawa based strategic and organizational communications specialist at the Hillbrooke Group. She has more than 20 years of experience developing and implementing communications and stakeholder strategies in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.
Janet can be reached at

"Last week’s uproar over the launch of Snapchat’s Bob Marley filter called ‘blackface’ on April 20, a day associated with a counterculture celebration of marijuana, proved to be good example of how important it is for organizations to stay on message even when the subject matter is controversial."