With African American purchasing power rivaling that of the entire nation of Mexico (1.1 vs. 1.28 trillion USD respectively) and Hispanics driving most of the growth for CPG brands*, the temptation to see them as markets is irresistible.
Many brands have thus defined minorities as their primary or secondary target. The universal formula applies: create a message relevant to this audience and place it where they are more likely to see it.
The problem arises when ethnicity is considered a defining characteristic of your audience: brands literally end up creating “black” ads and put them in “black” zip codes. In 2013 alone this was done at the tune of $2.6 billion dollars*. Now multiply this by dozens of years and the implications of this practice become apparent:
“Black median household income remains 59% that of Whites, a ratio essentially unchanged since 1967 when the Census Bureau began tracking this data.”
There’s no denying that ethnicity is an important consideration. The question is what to do with it. Consider the divergent fortunes of Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama. The Black experience has shaped the lives and views of both politicians. But while one has made it a limiting aspect of his message, the other used his community’s desire for Change as a rallying cry that viscerally resonated with a much larger group, allowing each voter to interpret that aspiration as most relevant to themselves.
As a result, one failed twice to secure his party’s nomination, the other was elected President, twice.
We call Mr Jackson’s approach Black/In: a message defined and limited by the color of its audience.
Remarkably, millions of advertising dollars are still spent this way by marketers anxious to tick the ethnic marketing box, while their ethnic agencies prosper with this short-sighted strategy that limits success and contributes to perpetuating our social ills.
Working with both the Hispanic and African American “markets'” at Chaco we learned the advantages of a Black/Out approach: a message informed but not limited by the ethnic experience. It isn’t only more socially responsible, it is also more profitable. Just ask Pharrell.
Small firms can find it hard to match the energy, world class talent and diversity that make larger companies so competitive. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Start a business with less than 10 employees and you’ll soon discover how quickly your co-workers can seem dull. No matter how much you like them, walking into a small office with just the 6 of you feels as eerily quiet as church on a Tuesday morning.
Smallness can eventually work against you, as talent migrates out to rival firms with a mailroom bigger than your entire office and opportunities pass you by because you lack the scale and diversity needed to solve complex problems.
Realizing that we were not the only consultancy facing this challenge, we launched Kongo: our opportunity to surround ourselves with some of the brightest independent professionals and start-ups in the media and creative industries.
We opened over 5,000 square feet of beautifully designed loft-space to a small group of world-class designers, researchers, writers, producers, motion graphics experts, innovators and foreign correspondents. Some of our colleagues include FireFish USA (research), Positron (experiential design engineers), A Different Engine (UX design), Messaging Lab (biotech), QuesttoNo (product design), SmartAssDesign and Machine (innovation and design)
Based in Dumbo, the heart of New York’s most vibrant start-up community, we now collectively enjoy the resources of larger Madison Avenue agencies, with none of the politics.