Understanding Juneteenth Conversation Shifts in 2021

A significant number of online participants are closely following Juneteenth conversation this year – is your brand tuning in as well? We explored the past three years of conversation to gather insight around conversation volume and consumer behaviors. And it’s the kind of consumer intelligence that should inform brand messaging around any topic really, particularly one that’s focused on big societal issues, like racial injustice.

With Juneteenth officially a national holiday in the United States, consumers are following conversation around it closely – many more consumers than brands realize, in fact. It makes sense, as it’s an important – and overdue holiday. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed, but slavery did not immediately end for many. This day commemorates that struggle and celebrates the day that was denied to many.

In 2021, the number of impressions topped the charts, nearly doubling the year before. If your brand didn’t participate in honoring the holiday, you missed out – and consumers noticed. More so than previous years, consumers were paying attention to what happened online around Juneteenth this year – to the tune of 150.7 billion impressions.

juneteenth impressions

And the corresponding sentiment each year deserves exploration as well, and it will make sense in context as we explore the behaviors consumers were exhibiting online each year, along with key conversations being discussed.

Consumer Conversation About Juneteenth

As we explore the consumer behaviors shared during each year, we see quite a shift in both sentiment and the variety of topics within the conversation. These conversations help us better understand the resulting Net Sentiment story as well – which we’ll speak to in a moment.


Top consumer behaviors in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

2019 Conversations & Brand Response

In 2019, Juneteenth acted as impetus for Rep. Sheila Jackson to reintroduce reparations talks and the corresponding sentiment was high for that period (5/22-6/22), resulting in an overarching 79%. And on a scale from -100 to 100, that’s a great place to be.

There were events and parades – and this tweet shared by former president, Barack Obama commemorating the importance of the day:

There really wasn’t much brand chatter, beyond disappointment that Google didn’t create one of its expected “Doodles” to mark the day.

Brands likely took note though and began planning for 2020. Unfortunately, the pandemic had different plans

2020 Conversations & Brand Response

2020 brought COVID, which took over everything. The conversation shifted and sentiment dropped to 43%. Examining the conversation reveals why – everyone was focused on trying to be supportive, particularly to POC-owned businesses, but there was solid sense of despair in the air at that time. And it didn’t help that Juneteenth was still not a holiday, combined with racial strife plaguing the country

In-person celebrations were cancelled and the feeling around it was certainly subdued. But this didn’t stop smart brands from making things happen. We saw Nike and Tesla jump to action, taking an early lead in the holiday conversation:

And also Nickelodeon, which has made a habit of advocating strongly for educating children around social justice issues.

2021 Conversations & Brand Response

As we examine present day, we see the conversation for 2021 has taken on a new element, with some big angry words around not celebrating the holiday.

How then has sentiment jumped from 43% to 73%? As the average of the month, in spite of the attempts made to stop it, the groundswell of good feelings evident beneath the surface overwhelmed the negative. Also, part of the negative sentiment this year is focused on discussions around those who voted against Juneteenth becoming a holiday – and that really isn’t a negative about the holiday itself.

Many brands have jumped into Juneteenth marketing with both feet and have been met with scalding water, unfortunately. Consumer sentiment can be best described as skeptical of the support. Many marketers feel similarly.

black marketers skeptical to juneteenth marketing

But this doesn’t mean Juneteenth is something for brands to shy away from either. Understanding how to best connect with audiences around equity and racial injustice issues throughout the year is what’s important here – and should be a key takeaway. Doing so will help brands position themselves positively in the long-run and help them authentically participate the next time this holiday comes around. How they participate is something that will arise organically, once they spend time genuinely interacting with their audience.

And it’s something to begin planning now, as consumers are watching to see which brands are directing their dollars toward creating change, and which are just marketing in the moment. Reach out and we can help you ensure you’re in the correct category next year!

2021 the importance of consumer insight

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