The David Morse editorial on multicultural marketing and the soft-drink industry warrants a response. So here it is:
Morse rightly debunked the soft-drink industry’s assertions that its products have not contributed to obesity and related health problems with non-Whites. Despite the PR and propaganda, sugary beverages are recognized as unhealthy by most rational scientists, healthcare professionals and citizens. As Morse pointed out, the products are targeting minorities at higher percentages, albeit partly because soft-drink manufacturers are among the few companies/categories actively involved in multicultural marketing at all. What’s more, soft drinks have consistently been positioned as complements to junk food and overconsumption, as demonstrated by classic taglines like, “Things go better with Coca-Cola,” and “Coke Adds Life”—as well as the following Coke Zero promotions.
Morse wondered why “the soft-drink industry is being demonized as if it were the new big tobacco.” Um, maybe because players in the category execute Big Tobacco-like tactics to addict customers—and opponents resort to anti-smoking-like campaigns in retaliation. MultiCultClassics has noted the phenomenon in the past, and the trends have continued and accelerated in recent years.
From a multicultural marketing angle, perhaps it’s time to view soft drinks under the same microscope as menthol cigarettes and malt liquor. The hijacking of hip hop and urban culture is certainly prevalent in the advertising—even when the work is produced by White advertising agencies. And Morse did point out that obesity and related chronic diseases highly affect minority segments.
Protesting tobacco and booze makers for targeting minorities is a common occurrence, so shouldn’t soft-drink companies face opposition too? Indeed, heart disease, stroke and diabetes are right up there with cancer as the top minority killers.
Morse makes the weak argument about responsibility lying with parents, blah, blah, blah. Forget the fact that many minority communities do not have access to healthier alternatives. Placing blame on the victims just doesn’t hold up from a multicultural marketing perspective.
First, it’s important to note the current
bullshit campaign presented by the American Beverage Association that brags about all the wonderful things companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are doing to address the situation. The manufacturers’ message proclaims, “We’re Delivering. More Choices. Smaller Portions. Fewer Calories.” Yet how does the hype apply to minority audiences and multicultural marketing?
Minority advertising agencies remain grossly underrepresented and underpaid in the overall marketing picture. Which means the budgets allocated to targeting non-Whites pale in comparison to the money handed to White shops. Sure, the soft-drink industry says it offers more choices—but are the choices being fully communicated to minorities? Hell, are the choices prominently appearing on store shelves in minority neighborhoods? Doubt it.
Trivia Question: Why are fruit-flavored sodas more popular than Coke among Black consumers? Answer: Because Blacks were historically prohibited from enjoying The Real Thing.
Discrimination used to keep minorities away from the top soft drinks. Ironically, the unequal conditions in multicultural marketing may keep them hooked to the unhealthier brands offered by the soft-drink industry.