“What’s Black About It? — Insights to Increase Your Share of a Changing African-American Market” by Pepper Miller and Herb Kemp demonstrates you should never judge a book by its cover. Or its pre-publication hype.
MultiCultClassics first noted the business book last July, prior to its delayed Fall release (See Essay 69). The initial reaction was skepticism. After all, the title question — “What’s Black About It?” — is a persistent thorn for most professionals (particularly creative types) in Black advertising agencies. Clients often ask the question during creative presentations if the concepts don’t depict blatant, stereotypical cultural cues. It’s pretty unlikely that mass market agencies hear clients inquire, “What’s White About It?” when viewing campaign ideas.
Additionally, co-author Pepper Miller heads an independent research firm, consulting with agencies and clients. The early publicity for the book seemed too eager to push qualitative and quantitative data, which is rarely properly conducted for minority segments — and even more rarely leads to breakthrough work.
Any skepticism over “What’s Black About It?” has turned out to be unwarranted. Mea culpa to Miller and Kemp.
“What’s Black About It?” is a slim read at only about 100 pages (excluding notes, source guides, index and more). The size might deter purchase, given the $39.95 cover price. But buyers will ultimately be rewarded by the book’s intellectual depth. On an abstract level, it’s like “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White — extraordinarily succinct yet thorough in its exposition.
The book is comprised of ten chapters that seamlessly build a rock-solid argument for marketing to Black consumers, while providing proven tactics to ensure things get done right. There are no clichéd formulas or silver bullets to be found here. That is, don’t expect to read the book and become an instant expert. Rather, the authors balance how-to instruction with how-come reasoning to form a foundation for positive accomplishments.
Miller and Kemp speak with experience and authority — they’re consummate professionals. But more importantly, they speak with passion, which is the essential ingredient for succeeding with the segment. Anyone seeking to reach Black consumers must be totally committed to the endeavor. Adpeople and clients alike must be willing to debunk assumptions, rethink strategies and challenge the status quo. The investment must be financial and emotional. Miller and Kemp don’t pull any punches in stating the realities.
Instead of potentially spoiling the show by summarizing the chapters or printing excerpts, MultiCultClassics strongly advises readers to discover the provocative content firsthand. “What’s Black About It?” presents a wealth of fresh perspectives and cool stuff that even seasoned veterans will find fascinating.
The book appeals to a broad business audience. For professionals at Black advertising agencies, it’s an advanced refresher course designed to keep you on the cutting edge. If you’re just starting to explore the Black consumer market, the book can be an invaluable introductory resource. For all clients, whether already deeply engaged with the target or simply curious, “What’s Black About It?” will crystallize the case for creating powerful, profitable relationships with a dynamic and unique segment.
To be clear, the book is designed for everyone, regardless of your title, motivations, capabilities, political stance and ethnicity.
The non-business public can benefit from perusing too, since the book may also serve as a handy reference guide — a sort of “Black Culture for Dummies.”
In the end, Miller and Kemp rival popular gurus like Faith Popcorn and Paco Underhill, revealing insights and information in a highly readable and compelling style.
“What’s Black About It?” may be purchased directly from the publishers (Paramount Market Publishing, Inc.). Just click on the essay title and order your copy today.
[On a side note, it’s a shame that leaders in the Black advertising community have not yet managed to write books for the industry. The few offerings have been self-published or underground efforts versus national releases — that is, there are no Black counterparts to the classics by David Ogilvy, Jerry Della Femina, Leo Burnett, Luke Sullivan, Mary Wells Lawrence, Al Ries and Jack Trout, etc. Adpeople like Tom Burrell, Don Coleman, Byron Lewis and Carol H. Williams surely must have stories to tell.]