Advertising & Strategic Marketing
Before diversity, equity and inclusion were lumped together to create the latest catchall phrase for respecting and valuing humans with greater melanin and various abilities, it was called many things. When I started my marketing career, it was called emerging markets. That meant that corporate America was just noticing that consumers came in all colors. To them, we were 'emerging' although most of us had been here since before the families of the CEOs running those companies. It represented new opportunities to grow in areas that had been ignored. Companies were scrambling to figure out how to persuade people like to me to use their products and services. This was the age of employee training revolving around 'tolerance'. The problem was, consumers like me did not want to be tolerated. We wanted to be seen and appreciated.
Traversing this era in marketing was challenging because consultants were telling companies to focus on three things to reach the Latine market: soccer, Spanish, and family. Never mind that there is a collection of islands across Hispanola that doesn't live and breathe soccer. It didn't take into account the millions of assimilated, monolingual Latine folx who didn't speak Spanish. It assumed that 'family' looked like a mom, dad, several children and a grandparent or two all living in the same house. While there is a special place in many hearts for soccer, Spanish, and family, pushing those upon people from over 20 different cultures was a lazy approach.
As a young, English-dominant Afro-Latina from Chicago where most of my Latine friends and neighbors were more inclined to cheer on the Bulls than any pro soccer team, I was puzzled. Where was I in that equation?
Executives often resisted my insistence to move beyond cliches to get to know the market. Many didn't want to invest the time and money to establish trust among markets that had never been significant. They focused on a sterotype that didn't account for people with my lived experience, even though it was a sizable portion of the market. Even while sharing what I knew to be true, I faced resistance and doubt from stakeholders who didn't see me as part of the market.
When the rest of the office went home at night to enjoy their families and friends, I read case studies, analyzed data and crafted stories that emcompassed Latine folx who didn't fit their idea of us. It was like getting my marketing degree all over again. I had to find ways to present my findings and tie them to the strategic plan and quarterly goals to fill in the gap between their perception and the realities of the market. Additionally, I had to present my ideas in ways that made it seem like my they came from my superiors, the ultimate gatekeepers of the almighty marketing budget. Getting the green light to execute marketing plans that would gain results became my daily goal. It was a lesson that sharpened my sales and persuasion skills. When my efforts were successful (I'm very Type-A, I don't execute failures), I didn't expect credit and praise, I faced surprise. Although the process was exhausting and unfair, I reveled in proving others wrong when they doubted me.
Later in my career, the term changed to multicultural marketing. This was supposed to be more emcompassing of all non-Anglo groups, but failed to acknowlege intersectionality and differences beyond race. Again, I had to educate those above me, while demonstrating techniques that were more widely-focused. Even within that narrowmindedness, I enjoyed my job. It was exciting to see myself as a viable market.
I grew up wondering why I only saw people like me on Sesame Street and not Wall Street. I wanted to change that.
It wasn't easy being the sole marketer for this sector while mainstream marketing had dozens of team members contributing to planning, and sharing accountability for outcomes. As a one-person team, I had a lot of autonomy, but never the final say.
The piece below was created by a multimedia advertising agency when I joined their team to expand their clients' reach. It was a new position largely created around my accomplishments at Fortune 500 companies. The problem was that while my title indicated I led the effort, those above me weren't fully convinced I should have a seat at the table. My pitches were often left out of presentations. I was not invited to sales calls and meetings to propose my services. Clients got this mailing and then were almost blocked from interacting with me. It was a formula for trainwreck. Thankfully, I saw the writing on the wall and knew it was the last time I would allow my talents to be eclipsed.