I Write this Alone in Vegas

Ok so not really, but I thought it sounded cool (and it’s a pop-culture reference, so there). But to be fair, the thoughts that resulted in this blog post’s composition did occur while I was in fact alone in Vegas. More specifically, I was recuperating in my hotel room after a 15-hour workday managing the Hillshire Farm Mama’s Kitchen activation during Freedom Friday at Steve Harvey’s 9th Annual Hoodie Awards at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino.

So beyond my awesome title, now on to the actual meat (it’s Hillshire Farm meat, just so you know) of this column – how important is community presence in multicultural marketing, and just how present is your favorite brand in the community? Steve Harvey has done a fantastic job securing committed sponsors for his morning show, his mentoring weekend and the Hoodies over the last decade, and surely each sponsor has an idea of the importance of community involvement for the AA consumer. A 2009 study* shows that almost two thirds of African Americans are more likely to support brands that are visible in their community, and at the end of the day it’s all about the bottom line – brands (at least the smart ones) want their consumer base to be as broad as possible.

However, in order to broaden this consumer base to include African Americans, the days of just slapping a Black face on a billboard and coming up with a few stereotypical catchphrases are over. I (along with just about everybody, to the point where it’s now treading in “DUH” territory) have said it before and I’ll say it again (or not, depending on where it ranks on the “DUH”-meter moving forward) – relevance is everything, and AA advertising done wrong is typically more offensive than just ineffective (case in point – Nivea’s “Re-civilize Yourself” ad.

In the age of social media, community involvement can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in added value in the form of celebrity tweets, viral videos and media coverage because consumers understand and recognize that it is wisest to invest in brands that invest in them (Jay-Z infamously steered the Hip-hop community away from Cristal Champagne in 2006 with one stanza on the title track of his “Kingdom Come” album in response to some not-so-respectful remarks made by a Cristal rep regarding the urban demographic consuming the product ). Whether it is Hillshire Farm being one of many sponsors at the Hoodie Awards, Jack Daniel’s Art, Beats & Lyrics tour or Amtrak honoring Pullman Porters, investing in the community matters! It is not by coincidence that all of the aforementioned brands are at the vanguard of their respective fields. Beyond just affecting the bottom line, these programs drive intangibles such as brand affinity, brand trust and brand loyalty.

Now back to the Hoodies – At the culmination of the weekend during the actual awards ceremony, the crown for the Hillshire Farm-sponsored “Best Soul Food” category was awarded to Croaker’s Spot from Richmond, VA. Now we don’t mean to toot our own horn (but umm… beep beep), but the “Best Soul Food” category winner was the only winner to thank the actual sponsor, as has also been the case in years past. Why? Because rather than just allocate funds toward the sponsorship, IMAGES USA and Hillshire Farm took it a step further and conducted media outreach in each finalist’s respective market to highlight their nomination and bolster their patronage and community awareness. These efforts do not go unnoticed, and any multicultural marketer should take heed. For the umpteenth time – community involvement matters!**

How involved is your favorite brand in your community? Does community involvement influence whether you support a brand? IMAGES USA wants to hear from our readers!

*Black America Study (Radio One, Yankelovich), 2009
**Two exclamation points in one column, that’s fair right? I need feedback on this because I tend to be an exclamation maniac like Elaine on Seinfeld.


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