"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one." - Charles Mackay
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Pseudo Marketing tips aimed at blacks
Marketing to the masses tends to miss many
Radio host has pointers for reaching black audience
By Del Jones, USA TODAY

Those who assume that African Americans who are both middle age and middle class watch pretty much the same movies and TV programs and read the same newspapers and magazines as do their white counterparts do so at their own peril. Try this experiment: Go around the workplace and say the name "Tom Joyner." When USA TODAY corporate management reporter Del Jones did that, white colleagues gave him an unknowing stare, while black colleagues lit up in recognition. Joyner reaches 8 million nationwide on 115 radio stations. His listeners average 40 years in age and have an average household income of $48,500. As the African-American market closes in on $1 trillion a year in spending power, Joyner warns that many companies have yet to figure out how to capture it.

Q: What is the biggest single mistake companies make with African-American consumers?

A: They think they can reach them through mainstream advertising. That's a huge mistake.

Q: I'm white. Am I really so different than my African-American colleagues that advertisers can't reach us both with the same commercials on the same programs?

A: They can, and it works up to a point. But they could have so much more if they specifically and unashamedly direct their efforts to an African-American audience. This strategy goes back 50 years when Ebony magazine convinced advertisers to use black models in their print ads. To this day there are generations of black people who are loyal to some of those brands. As a people, that's the way we are, and we've got a whole lot of money. Black people fly and love to fly cheap. Southwest Airlines advertised unashamedly on my show and with my endorsement and did things like recognize Black History Month at their gates. They went right after us.

Q: Are advertisers that have in the past targeted only upscale white consumers starting to target the upscale African American market?

A: Yeah, we've done a cruise for six years. The average price is like $3,500 a person not including airfare, and we sell out. Seventy-five percent of the people on the ship haven't cruised before. Why not? Are they afraid of water? No. No one's asked. Royal Caribbean understands that now. They use a black agency to advertise to the African-American consumer, and they get a lot of black people on their ships.

Q: Do companies have a right to target only white consumers, or should you expose them on your program?

A: Expose them as stupid? We can't do that, we can't really go after and expose companies, not and remain a media company. A look at the man behind 'Tom Joyner Morning Show'

*Grew up in Tuskegee, Ala. Father was a Tuskegee Airman, mother was a secretary for the military. Married fitness expert Donna Richardson five years ago. Two sons from previous marriage.

*Sociology degree from Tuskegee Institute (1970). Started broadcasting in 1969 at AM radio station WRMA in Montgomery, Ala.

*Vegetarian. Keeps his age a secret. Biographical sources peg him at 55.

*Earned the nickname "The Fly Jock" when he flew between a morning job in Dallas and an afternoon job in Chicago from 1986 to 1993. His show went into syndication in 1994; he broadcasts it from Dallas.

*Founded Reach Media in 2003, which includes the Tom Joyner Morning Show and website BlackAmericaWeb.com. In April, sold 51% of Reach Media to Radio One for $56 million.

*Among those who have been on his show: President Clinton, Sinbad, Spike Lee, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, Patti LaBelle, Steve Harvey, Dick Clark, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Magic Johnson, Tyler Perry, Smokey Robinson, Beyonce, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock, Maya Angelou, Al Greene, Vanessa Williams, Sen. John Kerry, Jesse Jackson, The Rock, James Brown (The Godfather of Soul) and James Brown (the Fox TV sportscaster).

*Does he consider himself a celebrity? "No. A celebrity is somebody who sleeps late. I'm well known, but I get up too early to be a celebrity."

Lessons in advertising

*Don't try to catch African-American consumers with a broad net. Target them unashamedly.

*Upscale African-Americans also respond to targeted advertising.

*Remember the strategy Ebony magazine succeeded with decades ago: Use black actors and models.

*Don't assume everything offends. Sassy black women and black men saying "Whassup" is not the same as Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben.

*Hip-hop is no longer a black thing. It's pop culture, and it's international.

Q: I was listening to your show on the Washington, D.C., affiliate and a local car dealership commercial promised to waive credit checks for car buyers. That's a pitch that I have not heard on the stations I listen to, and it seemed to make the assumption that African Americans have lousy credit. Aren't they offended?

A: No. We do have bad credit. That ad is good business. They're inviting the African-American audience to do business with them.

Q: I'm not understanding this. The car dealership is assuming your listeners do not pay their bills, and that's OK?

A: You can have bad credit by having a certain ZIP code. We need some credit.

Q: I'm starting to see. Your listeners take no offense because African Americans see bad credit to be discrimination. The dealership is not being offensive, but rather positioning itself as fixing the inequity?

A: We face redlining and profiling. You need a car and you ain't got no credit. What's wrong with a guy inviting someone to buy a car and he's going to waive the credit check? No one else will.

Q: It seems that African-American women are portrayed in advertising as sassy. In a Budweiser campaign African-American men greeted each other with "Whassup?" Aren't these stereotypical portrayals the modern-day equivalent of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben?

A: No. Not in an ad. The Whassup ad was not directed at the African American, but at the mainstream audience. What you call sassy is nothing more than going after that hip-hop generation, an attitude which crosses all ethnic lines. It's not black people who are keeping hip-hop alive.

It's not the same as Aunt Jemima ads when you had Hambone and "Yessir, boss, try my biscuits." It's not the same. This is just pop culture.

Q: You don't seem to find any advertising directed at the African-American market offensive.

A: Hmmmm. The Psychic Friends Network went after broke people who have problems.

Q: What about McDonald's? They made news when young African-American actors said, "I'd hit it," which suggested in hip-hop slang that they'd like to make love to a double cheeseburger.

A: Again, that's not directed at an African-American market. It's pop culture. Hip-hop is worldwide. There were probably a lot of sensible black people who thought it was offensive, but it wasn't as bad as the president of Mexico saying that Mexican people take the jobs that black people don't want.

Q: African-American ad agencies are complaining that too much of the diversity dollar is redirected to the Hispanic market. Are companies making a mistake?

A: No. That's very smart, and I understand. They have to specifically reach out to the Hispanic market. They don't always understand the same is true for us. Look at all the black advertising agencies that have folded in the last couple of years because they are targeting us through mainstream agencies. I don't see anything racial in it. They are just being stupid and making a huge mistake.

Q: Other than Southwest Airlines, what companies have figured out how to advertise to the African-American market, and what do they do right?

A: Did you get a list of our advertisers? McDonald's is one. They know how to do it. They sponsor things on my show like our black history fact. They show an interest in our culture and our community. It's not enough to light up the arches and open up the door.

Q: Some magazines publish lists like The Best Companies for African Americans. Those magazines are fat with advertising from the companies on the list. The perception is that companies that advertise make the list. Corporate diversity officers call this "pay to play." Shouldn't such lists be for those who hire and promote African Americans?

A: It's not a shakedown. If you are going to be one of the best companies for African Americans, you should advertise to African Americans.

Q: Momentum in advertising is shifting toward the Internet. Are companies making any big mistakes in how they market to African Americans online?

A: We're making money on BlackAmericaWeb. Yeah. I think that everyone who comes to BlackAmericaWeb, or our competition BlackVoices and BlackPlanet, are very smart. We are on the Internet. We're making money. Don't let anyone fool you that black folks aren't on the Internet. Oh, yes we are. ... And it's paying off.

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