Black History Month—A Conversation Starter

Ensure your marketing efforts are resonating with the African-American audience during Black History Month.

Kim Bryant

Each year as February rolls around, we see an influx of marketing around Black History Month with the goal of targeting African-American audiences. Some initiatives, like this year’s efforts from Google and Publix, end up embraced. While others get shared among circles and gain notoriety for being tone deaf, stereotypical or even demeaning. You get the picture. We won’t name names.

So how do you land among those celebrated?

The brands that resonate best with the African-American audience are those that have earned and built an established relationship with this community. It is one that is fostered and anchored by establishing a conversation. They have done their research and understand that they cannot be monolith in their approach as the African-American audience is as diverse as the rich skin tones that are found among its members.

Brands need to understand their target in this audience and start the conversation versus broadly talking to the entire African-American community. Once you have your target and understand the nuances for this audience, begin your conversation. An easy entry point is through Black History Month, like what P&G did last year with its The Look film. It may seem too obvious, but your approach doesn’t have to be. It is a start to tie into something that is important to this audience. Find the natural tie-in with your brand, the common ground, that will make your conversation relevant so as not to come off as contrived or even obligatory. Be genuine.

After Black History Month is over, maintain the conversation with this audience. One way could be to develop specially-crafted messaging in targeted media outreach during relevant times. Like Google and Publix, look beyond African-American holidays and observances. Identify what your brand brings to the table and connect there. Google does this by featuring African-American icons, events and lesser known observations into their Google Doodles and with videos and mini campaigns. Publix talks about what they’re known for, food, in campaigns around significant time periods or culturally relevant events or occasions—family reunions, Sunday dinners and graduation.

The thing to remember about conversations is that they don’t end after one speaks. It should be a dialogue that continues, but you can let Black History Month be the spark.