On the Use of the Term “BIPOC”

The term “BIPOC” exploded in popularity this summer. But few consumers have embraced the term in their daily lives, and the trend seems to be fading. Should you use it? Read on for more insights.

In the wake of the homicide of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020, and the subsequent #BlackLivesMatter protests that proliferated around the country in the following weeks, a new term appeared on everyone’s radar apparently out of nowhere: BIPOC. Standing for “Black, Indigenous, and People of Color”, the term is meant to be an inclusive umbrella for non-White individuals. The New York Times found the earliest use of the #BIPOC in a 2013 Tweet, although it isn’t clear if the author intended the same meaning as the term has today. Fill out the form below to download the full report.

Google trends data reinforces that interest in the term exploded from nothing to a large spike in late May and early June 2020.

Interest quickly trailed off. This could be due to people’s understanding of the term and not needing to research it anymore, but could also be due to a rejection or reluctance to embrace the term.

The explosion and then rapid decline in interest in the term raises questions.

First, many people are confused about the acronym itself. Does it stand Black, Indigenous, People of Color? Black, Indigenous, and People of Color? Bisexual People of Color? And how do you pronounce it? Do you say each letter, or just “bye-pock?”

Then, of course, you need to consider the opinions of the groups that the term claims to represent. According to a Collage Group survey fielded in October 2020, three quarters of each racial/ethnic segment neither uses nor identifies with the term.

In addition, more than half of each segment feels generally negative or neutral about the term BIPOC.

One reason is that, while the term attempts to be inclusive of different minority groups, many feel that using an umbrella term actually minimizes or erases the individuality and identity of each segment.

The most important thing for your brand to do is make sure the terms you use are appropriate for the situation.

When talking about issues broadly faced by non-White people, such as racism or pay disparities, it may be appropriate to use BIPOC. But in the context of police brutality, using BIPOC may be inappropriate, as it’s really the Black segment that bears the brunt of it. Black consumers expect your brand to recognize that explicitly.

Frequent usage of a term in the media does not necessarily mean that the relevant groups want to be called by that term.

We found similar results earlier this year when we asked Hispanic consumers their opinions of the term “Latinx”. While many brands and news sources have adopted the term in attempts to sound progressive and inclusive, very few Hispanic consumers use or identify with the term.

Considering that consumers across segments feel mixed if not negative emotions about the term BIPOC, and the sharp drop-off in search activity after June 2020, it’s not clear whether BIPOC is here to stay. For now, think carefully about using this term while closely monitoring consumer attitudes in the complex area of self-identification.

For more insights on the term BIPOC and what terms each group prefers to be called by, see the attached presentation

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