I recently polled my friends on Facebook about advice I had received to not wear my hair braided to my upcoming interview. A dear friend passed along advice she had received from her mother who is an African-American business woman. She believes the corporate world does not respond well to ethnic hair styles. Since I have been searching for a job I have worn my hair both braided and unbraided. I usually alternate as in the spring and summer it is much easier to maintain a neater hairstyle in the humidity if it is braided.
In my professional career I have followed this pattern for years. It is time to rebraid my hair and this time my appointment is the day before a corporate interview. I am going to be me. I am going to braid my hair and then put it up in a professional, yet “ethnic looking” bun. I will wear a business suit and I will be well prepared. I figure they should know who they are getting up front. A professional Black woman.
What do you think? Am I decreasing my chances of being hired?
I’m currently reading Sally Hogsheads book Fascinate. It is an amazing insight on why certain ad campaigns do not work and why others do. Her website that just recently launched allows you to find your own personal fascination triggers.
For example Ms. Hogshead discusses why teen drunk driving ad campaigns based on the fear of losing their life, generally don’t work. Most teens are still at an age where they feel invincible. The fear of death at their young age is not nearly as effective as the fear of public embarrassment for teens.Ms Hogshead suggests that a campaign based on the fear of losing their license and being driven to the prom by their mother is far more effective. Studies have proven she is right.
Her website and book walk you through both how to be more fascinating and how to use the most effective fascination triggers for your target audience. The power of persuasion maybe easier than you think.
Showing a genuine interest in multicultural Diasporas is the best way to turn their interest in your products into ROI. Acknowledge the culture and tout your company’s interest in the concerns and challenges of the groups you are targeting. I don’t think it is inappropriate to point out your company’s support for national progress organizations such as the United Negro College fund or sharing your company’s support of legislation that matters to your target audience. Jets make sure that this interest is genuine and long-standing. Making a large donation before launching your African-American Product line will seem ill-timed and patronizing. Sharing long-standing interest will go a long way for building good will.
So this is Day 5, I have shared some ideas on multicultural marketing basics. I have only scratched the surface but I’m willing to delve deeper if there are more specific questions people have. What are your thoughts?
If your budget is tight, then only focus your efforts on products or services that are relevant and being under utilized by your ethnic target market. What I mean by this is you should assume normal use products don’t need a special pitch. All ethnic groups and races clean their home. So, there is no real need to re-shoot your Pine Sol commercial for multiple ethnic groups. The need to keep one’s home clean is a universal need sort of like bathrooms. Everybody does it. It is better to focus your efforts on cultural understanding of how your products or services are used.
On day 1 I gave an example of how three different ethnic groups use the same product. The Caucasian family using Crisco to grease a baking pan, the African-American family using Crisco to fry chicken, and the Latino family using Crisco to fry yucca. I did that to show that different uses that are culturally relevant exist. This was not to suggest that African-Americans and Latinos don’t use Crisco to bake or that Caucasian families don’t fry foods. It was rather about letting your audience know, that your company has taken the time to explore common practices in other cultures. It sends the message that you have put forth the effort to include their norms, in your company’s definition of normal use.
It is my opinion that the effort to place cultural experiences into mainstream society is one way companies can maximize their appeal to multiple ethnic populations. While a company can’t be all things to all people, you will gain my customer loyalty by demonstrating that my purchasing dollar is something you are willing to court.
Photo by Hillery Smith Shay- James Perkins in front of the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama. Sept 2000
Use your resources.
As a photographer for the Associated Press, I was asked to go on a sensitive assignment. The first Black Mayor of Selma, Alabama was due to be sworn in and the Associated Press had been denied access to him any time before the swearing-in due to death. The National photo editor at that time looked at the resources on her staff to see who would have the best chance of making contact with the Mayor-Elect by just showing up on his doorstep. She called on me. I was one of only two African-American female photographers at the AP at this time and regionally I was the closest. Some might say this is wrong or her choice to use the benefits of my ability to seem less threatening in this situation was exploitative, but I do not agree. I was the best tool for the clearly racially charged situation at hand.
I arrived in Selma unannounced on a Friday evening. Checked into my hotel put on some comfortable clothes, grabbed one camera body and went to the home of James Perkins. I knocked on the door his wife answered. I explained both who I was and the long shot I was taking. She smiled and invited me in for coffee. While Mr. Perkins was not home, his wife made a quick assessment of the sincere soul on her porch and I was allowed to stay and document the family for the entire weekend access not granted to any other news outlet. I have no doubt that my being Black, and understanding the sensitive nature of this historical city electing its first Black mayor, made this situation successful.
By using our resources, we made our target comfortable. We sent in someone who could gain acceptance quickly and produce results. This is a great approach for multicultural marketing. Use your resources.
Check out my bi-monthly column on Good Enough Mother. All the colors in the box; talking to kids about race.
Do your homework. Careful consideration needs to go into the products or services you want to target to a multicultural audience. As a part of that homework, ASK! Ask someone in that audience. Actually, ask a few people. One of my favorite stories is about the failed sales campaign of the Chevy Nova in Mexico. Had someone asked a person Latino descent about this marketing plan, they might have pointed out that few people would want to buy a car whose name means “No Go” in Spanish.
While surveys and market research are good, I find that surveys presented to me about my culture are not actually asking the right questions. It is clear that in creating the survey someone forgot to ask African-Americans, what questions to put on the survey. A poorly populated survey is doomed from the start. I am never offended when someone who really wants to know about my culture, asks honest questions. I often think highly of clients who admittedly hire me because of my cultural background for a diverse project. It means they really want to know and make the best decisions from a knowledgeable perspective. This is not to say that I speak for an entire race of people, but it does mean they honestly want to earn the business of people like me.
So the lesson from day 2 is do your homework. If you don’t know, ask.
I thought I would write a series over the next five days on topics that are pertinent to a multicultural marketing and advertising effort. As an African-American consumer who is also a Latina, I thought I could shed some light on the cultural forces that drive my purchase patterns. As a creative marketer, I thought I’d share my approach.
Idea 1: Be honest. Be real. Speak to my experience or need.
Your product or service does not need to be combined with a civil rights lesson or be so equally balanced that the only thing different in the ad is the skin color. The whole experience should be focused on authentic believable experiences to get my interest. People want to see themselves and remember what they had not be reminded of what they didn’t have. My grandmother was a great cook. She could bake wonderfully. She didn’t own a Kitchen Aid mixer.
My mother was born in Youngstown, Ohio in a working class African-American family of eight children. She was a teenager during the civil rights movement. She raised her children to understand the struggle of the time and to be appreciative of the life we were now able to lead. My father was born in Kingston Jamaica to a Cuban woman and her Jamaican military husband. He was one of 14 children. I spent half the summer with my grandmothers. Everything I needed to learn about civil struggle I learned from my parents and grandparents. Therefore, I don’t need a civil rights lesson in your marketing approach.
But I do want people to be able to show me why your product appeals to my natural cultural biases. Yes, I said biases! I have them, we all do. Think for a moment the first time you sliced a tomato. How did you do it? Most likely, you did it the way your mother or grandmother did it. Lengthwise wedges or horizontal slices, the images from the kitchen you spent the most time in are what you rely on. This is how I shop and cook. Images from the kitchens I spent the most time in. This sounds logical I’m sure.
Picture this familiar image. A large expensive appliance laden kitchen impeccably decorated and a wholesome, often Caucasian, grandmother baking. There are catch phrases “just like grandma used to make” This imagery doesn’t usually draw me in. While I cooked with my grandmothers our spaces weren’t as grand, but they were clean and filled with love. The food was flavorful and the kitchen was rarely an empty large space but crowded and full of activity. One aunt at the sink washing collard greens another at the table cutting up blocks of cheddar cheese for the macaroni and cheese, still another at a counter whipping up a Jell-O mold. This was no holiday scene it was just Sunday dinner. Everyone in that kitchen looked like me and knew where I fit in. I was usually at the table snapping the ends off fresh green beans. This is the time when the phrases like “we’ve always done it this way” come to good use.
So If I wanted to transform this ad into one targeted at a specific Diaspora here are the basic things I would do.
- Change the people in the kitchen. Let your target market see themselves in your ad. If their kitchens are crowded, add more people. Let the children scurry around and get in trouble for licking the spoon!
- Change the product use and make it authentic. While one mother uses Crisco to grease and flour a baking pan, my African-American Grandmother used Crisco to make the world’s greatest fried chicken. My Cuban cousins use it to fry Yucca.
- Make the surroundings authentic. My grandmother’s kitchen was the center of my universe, but there was no Bosch dishwasher. In the summer, I was the dishwasher. It is not insulting to respect the reality of people’s childhood memories. Very few working class families have restaurant style refrigerators and freezers. My grandmother certainly didn’t, but you could eat off her floors!
- Don’t be afraid to do it differently. While we are all equal, our experiences are not the same. Don’t put your marketing and advertising through the race-neutralizing filter. It will offend your target market. If you don’t recognize and appreciate the differences, it sends a subtle message that there is something wrong with different.
For those of you who don’t remember it’s previous 20 hour debut in the appstore, I forgive you! It was clearly only out for a hot minute. The claim was that the software burdened the data networks But now it’s back. So for 15 dollars a year your can use iPhone or iPad to provide internet access for your laptop. You need to have a data plan on your iPad to use this feature. Who needs this app? Anyone who has ever traveled with his or her laptop and paid 10 bucks for 30 minutes of internet access! Tether is an application you can install from their website.It is also much cheaper to tether from your phone than paying 30 bucks a month for the mobile hotspot feature now offered for iPhones.
There is a downside, It is device specific. You can tether your one computer to your phone, not multiple devices.