Sunday, February 08, 2009

6420: Failure To Connect.


Marketers aren’t connecting with African-Americans

RE: “Don’t Bypass African-Americans” (AA, Feb. 2). African-Americans face the same dilemma we’ve always faced in America. The idea that used to permeate America was that we simply were not “worth it” when it came to our humanity. We’ve made immense progress in America, but perhaps the message has transformed into “our dollars are not worth it.” I’ve worked at several agencies, have an M.B.A. in marketing and am currently in a leadership program at a Fortune 10 corporation, so I speak from experience.

Yankelovich produces first-rate studies, but the lack of more fervent research across the board continues to allow lethargic marketers to claim that this segment has assimilated to the point where there is no need for a unique dialogue between brand and customer. I’ve seen the inside of several Fortune 500, 200 and 100 corporations and can candidly say that many times the AA market is not considered at the decision-making table, and when we are, it’s because there’s the lone soldier who is purposefully reminding everyone that we have $1 trillion in buying power.

Typically what I’ve seen are marketing executives who truly don’t have a connection to African-Americans at all, other than the occasional hip-hop song or urban colloquialism. We remain a mystery, and when you factor in budgetary constraints and nonexistent partnerships with African-American agencies or media, it’s easy to understand why there is the claim to not “see” a valid opportunity.

Here are seven suggestions for those who want to ameliorate their marketing efforts: 1) Decide to change. Don’t think about it. 2) Define and develop a process that identifies and measures “opportunity.” 3) Design a framework that has tangible and intangible metrics (not just population growth). 4) Collaborate with various centers of excellence. 5) Ask what you do not know and let your partners dream with you/for you. 6) Prioritize initiatives and test everything, because the most valuable connections are the ones that are hardest to see. 7) Lastly, take action and get connected.

Noble L. Woods
M.B.A. Leadership Program associate
Charlotte, N.C.

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