MultiCultClassics recently spotted the following hype for a soon-to-be-released business book:
What’s Black About It?
Insights to Increase Your Share of the Changing African-American Market
by Pepper Miller and Herb Kemp
At last — in-depth qualitative insights and quantitative information paint an eye-opening picture of Black culture and the Black lifestyle and how to connect your products and services with Black consumers.
What’s Black About It? presents historical, psychological, and cultural influences that delve far deeper into the Black experience than the demographics that are at the heart of other ethnic marketing books and market research reports. Now you will be able to break through stereotypes to better understand and relate to African-American consumers.
Other ethnic marketing books may include a general chapter or two on Black consumers.
What’s Black About It? focuses on African-American consumers and engages you with bold graphics, pop-culture sidebars, statistics and insights from focus groups, and examples from current advertising and marketing campaigns.
The book also includes an extensive resource guide of African-American marketers, ad agencies, public relations companies and other sources that, along with its compelling text and stats, make it a landmark “must have” reference for every marketer.
[End of hype]
Given the scarcity of books that showcase Black marketing — mostly due to the scarcity of Black marketing — this new title probably deserves some respect. Final judgment will be withheld until viewing the character of its content. However, based on experience and highly subjective opinion, there are lots of reasons to question the true value of What’s Black About It?
For starters, lead author Pepper Miller is the president of a small research firm (visit huntermillergroup.com). Bragging about qualitative and quantitative data impresses corporate types but depresses creative types. And while the company’s client roster is extensive, there are few listed names producing stellar Black advertising. Plus, the majority of the agency clients are Black ad shops. Not sure why Black ad shops would consult with a Black research firm, except to assist in organizing Black focus groups.
The book promises to help marketing professionals “break through stereotypes to better understand and relate to African-American consumers.” Then again, the clients mentioned above — especially the Black ad shops — are actually generating the bulk of the stereotype-riddled messages infesting our media. You are instructed to exercise caution when approached by entities professing to hold the keys to Black culture. Let’s pray the book isn’t offering formulas for effective Black communications (e.g., spotlight family reunions, barbecues, gospel choirs, graduations, graffiti, sassy grandmas, jazz bands, double dutch, Kwanzaa, barbershops, dancers, disc jockeys, dreadlocks/afros/braids, basketball, Black celebrities, pimped rides, hip-hop or the word “style”).
Despite the initial skepticism, MultiCultClassics endorses What’s Black About it? Not that the recommendation holds any weight or credibility. A full review will be posted in the coming months (What’s Black About It? is slated to hit the stores in August).
The larger question revolves around the lack of Black-focused books for the industry. Perhaps it’s another reflection of the lack of diversity. On a related rant, are there any business books by Black authors with mass appeal?
As a public service, MultiCultClassics presents the handful of Black-focused ad books (by writers of all backgrounds) for your perusal:
• Fly In The Buttermilk by Archie Boston. This autobiographical account of a Black man in advertising is among the best of its kind — and maybe the only of its kind. The art director, designer and educator self-published his memoir, so do a google search to pick it up.
• Shopping For Identity by Marilyn Halter. This is a solid entry documenting multiple segments with perspectives on buying patterns and traditions.
• Shifting: The Double Lives Of Black Women In America by Charisse Jones and Kumea Shorter-Gooden. This is not directly related to advertising, but it’s a comprehensive study of contemporary Black women that could inspire relevant concepts.
• Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben And Rastus by Marilyn Kern-Foxworth. This one’s for the PBS crowd. It’s historical versus how-to, but an interesting read nonetheless.
• Black Working Wives and The New Black Middle Class by Bart Landry. These two books are not advertising related, but are indispensable for analysis and planning.
• Segmenting The Women’s Market by E. Janice Lemming and Cynthia Tripp. This covers women overall, with decent sections on Black women.
• Designing Across Cultures by Ronnie Lipton. This is worth checking out. The author interviewed people creating multicultural messages to collect insights and more. There are hefty chapters on the major segments, illustrated with produced samples.
• Black Picket Fences by Mary Pattillo-McCoy. This also is not directly related to advertising, but it’s perhaps the most thorough attempt to distinguish and define the Black middle-class.
• Multicultural Marketing by Marlene Rossman. This is an early exposition on the subject. It handles multiple segments, and the passages on Black consumers continue to ring true today.
• Multicultural Marketing by Alfred Schrieber. This is a respectable overview on multiple segments, not connected to the previous book with the same title.
A number of these books are out-of-print — but copies can usually be acquired via abebooks.com or amazon.com.
Additionally, there are scattered titles, primarily self-published, with extremely limited distribution. Yet nothing that comes close to the cult classics from Bernbach, Burnett, Caples, Cone, Della Femina, Dru, Ogilvy, Popcorn, Ries & Trout, Sullivan, et al. Besides the rare articles in trade magazines, literary Black representation is invisible, man.
Which speaks volumes on the status quo in the business world.