Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sending The Wrong Message: Communicating With A Multicultural Audience

Offensive Nivea Campaign
In direct response to criticisms against Nivea's 'Look like you give a damn' campaign, the global brand has pulled the ad and issued an apology. A wise person once said, 'Thinking before acting often eliminates the need to apologize." The disheartening fact is, Nivea, Dove,Summer's Eve and other companies DO think, they just aren’t thinking about me. In the instances where black consumers are specifically targeted something usually goes horribly wrong. 

The frequency of these offenses can not only be attributed to an oversensitive minority audience. Marketers are consistently missing the mark which is due to the disconnect between the messenger and the receiver. It appears that brands need to be schooled on the rules of engagement; suggesting that their products will make me civilized, lighter or turn my vagina into 'Lady Wowza' are not effective strategies. Perpetuating cultural myths such as all black women are hard to handle, uneducated, and spend all their money on weaves will get my attention but will not earn you my loyalty.
Previously, when mainstream media and advertising strategist fudged up, we moaned about it in our own private communities, hoping for the day when shit-like-this wouldn't be tolerated. We clearly have not arrived at that day but the internet has changed how we tackle the problem. These varied communities with similar voices have been able to unite and effectively express what we find unacceptable. Through facebook, blogging and twitter we have brought these offenses out into the open and in many cases garnered public apologies. Unfortunately, apologizing/pulling content comes a little too late; the negative campaign has received widespread attention and the patronage of the intended audience is lost. The root cause of advertising-fails will persist until brands proactively learn how to interact with a multicultural audience. This goes far beyond hiring one black advertising executive. A constructive dialog needs to be initiated, reversing the roles, where the targeted audience provides insight into their lifestyles and the companies listen. 
Recently, Parlour Magazine proposed a panel discussion for the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) conference that could assist in bridging this divide. The panel will feature female bloggers from all over the globe, including yours truly. SXSW provides the ultimate platform to connect communicators to their audience and vice versa. If selected, we will focus on a series of topics, including global brands and how they target women of color. Discussions like this are vital to building relationships and help shape messages intended for us. The selection process is competitive and dependent on votes from the community. If you think our message is worth hearing simply click on SXSW banner,register, and thumbs up our topic.


  1. I hope you get chosen!! These discussion need to take place!

  2. Kudos to you :) By the way, I'm obsessed with your Tumblr, made me smile A LOT today xxxx

  3. @fashion limbo..really? i havent tumblred in ages. so irresponsible of me :)