All Articles Tagged "marketing"

No, I Don’t Want To Buy Your Goji Berry Juice: The Nightmare That Is Multi-Level Marketing

April 6th, 2015 - By Charing Ball
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The humor website Cracked has a great article about America’s fastest growing industry.

No, it’s not health care. Or banking. Heck, it’s not even weed, which was my guess. It’s multi-level marketing.

You’ve probably seen these high-pressure sellers everywhere: on your Facebook page, at your job, and even in your own family. They are people like your recently unemployed uncle, looking to get back on his feet by selling over-priced vitamins via Amway. They’re like your sister-in-law, a stay-at-home mom trying to make some extra cash selling alarm systems. Or perhaps they’re your best friend, selling the latest and greatest in super health drinks, one that promises to cure all diseases–including the fake ones.

That was the case for me. I sat in the backseat of my best friend’s car on the way to go shopping. In the passenger seat sat another close girlfriend of hers. Before picking me up, they stopped by another friend’s house who is an authorized super health drink saleswoman and purchased two big bottles of the stuff. They wanted to know if I was interested in getting some for myself. Apparently, while they were being sold the juice, they were also recruited as sellers. I declined. I have been juicing for a while and had already perfected my own super juice formula, which cost only a fraction of what they paid for the pre-packaged bottles. However, that didn’t stop them from giving me the hard sell.

I was told that this super juice was made from some exotic berry that you could only get by scaling the highest mountain in the Maldives.

“But there are no mountains in Maldives,” I said. “Maybe they have hills.”

However, my friends didn’t let geographic inaccuracies get in the way of their potential sale. Instead, they switched their pitch and started telling me about the health benefits. It’s a super juice, my friend said. It’s a super juice that contains large amounts of antioxidants, which detox the system and fight the free radicals that cause aging — because everybody knows that being a radical is bad. It also cures depression, headaches, stomach flu, food poisoning, toe fungus, shingles, Tourette syndrome, Parkinson disease, herpes, ALS, Ebola, cerebral palsy, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and seven types of cancer. I picked up the bottle and looked at the sugar content. “It might cure cancer and all, but you will definitely get a bad case of diabetes,” I said, half-jokingly.

Neither of them laughed.

Instead, they continued on with their dubious medical claims, claims they’d been fed by the seller who signed them up for the program. I asked them if the seller was a doctor or worked in the medical profession, to which my best friend responded, “Oh no, she does hair out of her house. But she has proof that it works. A friend of a friend’s mom’s sister had breast cancer and started drinking two bottles of the stuff a day.”

“Oh, so she’s cured?” I asked.

“No, she passed away, ” she said. “But the juice helped to give her relief.”

*Hard blink*

“The only thing that juice helped to relieve her of is the money she could have left to her family as inheritance,” I retorted.

I know, that was bad. However, there is nothing more irksome in this world than people selling snake oil to you…

On second thought, I can think of something more annoying: close friends and family members trying to sell snake oil to you. You are no longer their favorite cousin or best friend. Instead, you are a potential sale, or worse, a chump. The whole thing reminds me of a QVC film version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where an alien species infiltrates your people’s bodies and turns them into Vince Offer, aka, the ShamWow! guy.

And according to the article on Cracked, the invasion is spreading. Multi-level marketing (MLM) is not just a side hobby, but a $30 billion dollar a year global industry with 10 million people in the USA and 20 million worldwide working as “independent salespeople.” They hawk everything from super juice and makeup to jewelry and vitamins.

Unlike pyramid schemes, which are illegal, these “businesses” actually sell you products, which is a great way to keep the feds off of their a**es. However, many of these MLM businesses are just as predatory as your average Ponzi scheme. The only way to truly make money is by recruiting other independent salespeople and taking a cut of the money they make.

And in spite of the promise of big and easy money, as the Cracked article notes, it is rare that people actually make any money at all. In fact:

Herbalife, the company getting lawsuited all over the place that we discussed above? Of all their sellers, 99.92 percent lose money. And that is just when you are a part of the scheme. When I asked friends about their experiences working for these types of businesses, most of them said they had hundreds, even thousands of dollars’ worth of stock left after they finally got out. The companies were not about to buy that back — they just had to add the loss to their other ones.

I get the attraction. You can stay at home with your kids and go off to girly get-togethers at night and drink wine, and it seems like the perfect way to supplement your income. That’s why these things have been around and popular for almost 100 years. But there are flexible part-time jobs, even work from home jobs that pay regularly and don’t require you to invest your own money.So, please. Learn from the mistakes of those who went before you. There is no get-rich-quick scheme that works, and these companies virtually always leave you worse off than before.

Sounds like good advice to me. I tried to tell my girlfriends this, but you know, you can’t tell Black folks nothin’…



University Of North Georgia Catalog Sparks Controversy Over Cover Image

March 23rd, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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Ad fail! The University of North Georgia recently released the catalog for its continuing education offerings, but the illustration on its cover is stirring up some controversy.

In the image, a group of business professionals are racing toward a finish line. Winning the race are two white men dressed in suits while a white woman and Black man, who is dressed in slacks, shirt and tie, trail far behind. There’s a tagline that reads: “Why follow when you can lead?”

The illustration struck some as sexist and racist. And now the university had  apologized and agreed to stop distributing a course catalog, reports Raw Story.

According to the vice president of university relations, the image was in “poor judgment,” but insisted it was unintentional and “an isolated case.”

“The image was not representative of UNG’s commitment to diversity, and this will serve as an opportunity for increased dialogue about diversity issues and we expect that to better inform our processes and publications,” said Kate Maine, the university official.

The image has also been deleted from the department website and social media pages. The catalog will be reprinted.

Do you find it offensive?

7 Branding & Marketing Tips For Small Business Owners Just Starting Out 

January 15th, 2015 - By Kara Stevens
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Once you have decided that you want to start a business, you are going to have to figure out what your business stands for and how you are going to make money.  Since your brand is an extension of you and how you market that brand will determine how long you stay in business, it is extremely important that you create a viable marketing plan so your ideal client will know about you and your products and services and vice versa.

Christine St.Vil and Julian Kiganda, sisters and co-authors of Whose Shoes Are You Wearing? 12-Steps to Uncovering the Woman You Really Want to Be and owners of Moms N’ Charge and Bold & Fearless, respectively have over 20 of years of combined experience in marketing and branding as small business owners.

They shared their tips for marketing and branding your business. Here are three of Kiganda’s tips about branding:

Have total clarity on your WHY. So often, we get into business because we see an opportunity that is too good to pass up, but we’re not always clear on WHY we really want to get into business. The opportunity is less important than the WHY. Why? Because your WHY defines your passion. Your WHY defines your mission—the foundation of a successful company. Your WHY defines your commitment. Your WHY will keep you pushing even when you feel like giving up.

Know who you are. When you know who you are, you understand your value. As it’s been said: You don’t get paid for the work you do in an hour; you get paid for the VALUE you bring to that hour. How can you know your value if you don’t know who you are? I’ve found that taking the time to get clear on who I am, what I want and what I deserve, has helped me become much more focused and clear on the direction in which I want to take my business. Because of that, I can resist the wrong opportunities—no matter how good they look—because they are not aligned with who I am or the vision I have for my life.

Deliver on your promise. There is no faster way to destroy your brand than by making promises to customers and clients that you don’t keep. In this age of social media, it is more important than ever for your brand to deliver. Providing consistently great products and customer service is one of the best types of marketing there is!

Here are St. Vil’s top marketing tips for new entrepreneurs:

Focus on relationship building. The money is in your relationships. People refer business to those they can vouch for, those who they know, like, trust and will go the extra mile. Build relationships that matter and surround yourself with people who you can learn and grow from.

Focus on creating and sharing great content that your audience wants/needs/will benefit from. When you focus your marketing on giving rather than receiving, you will inevitably attract clients/prospects. Don’t make it all about you and what you have to share (sell). Make it about your target audience and what they need, focus on their pain points and strategies to solve them.

Tell your story. People connect to the mess behind your message. Everyone has a story. Until you can face your own and share it with others, it will prevent them (your true audience) from connecting with you. Allow your story to put you in a position of authority and increase your credibility. Do you relate more to those who have never gone through struggle or those who show that they’ve gone through struggle and show you how you can overcome it like they did?

When your business grows, make sure your head stays the same size. Stay humble. When you become a “local celebrity,” or your status in your industry becomes elevated, never forget where you came from. Have integrity with everyone you interact with because you never know how people are connected. Don’t ever stop feeling like you have to stop being humble because you’ve “made it.”

The #BrownGirlBoss Series seeks to provide inspiration, information, and support to aspiring brown girl entrepreneurs. This is Part II of the series.

Connect with Kara @frugalfeminista. Learn more about The Frugal Feminista at Download her free ebook The 5-Day Financial Reset Plan: Eliminate Debt, Know Your Worth, and Heal Your Relationship with Money in Just 5 Days. Join Kara’s closed $20 Cash Crash Diet Facebook Group to get some sistergirl support and accountability for reaching your savings goals. 

For Julian Kiganda, The Best Marketing Plan Integrates All That Makes You Who You Are

March 5th, 2014 - By Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
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 julian kiganda1

If you’ve ever been the lone black or brown face on a work project, or the only woman on the team, you may know how Julian Kiganda felt. In her 16-year career building her design and marketing expertise, she says, “It has taken me some time to truly embrace all of me.”

“By that, I mean not feeling like I have to downplay parts of who I am in order to make other people more comfortable around me, or to fit into a mold that they feel is acceptable,” she elaborates.

Things clicked for the Uganda-born branding expert, who also teaches dance as part of MBUUTU OF UGANDA, when she started celebrating her East African heritage as a performer. She explains, “I began to understand that culture is actually a strength.” Kiganda founded the multicultural marketing firm Vibrant LLC in 2006 and most recently launched Bold & Fearless, a platform that advances her personal brand.

We asked Kiganda her thoughts on how identity should impact business.

MadameNoire: What’s the difference between your work with Vibrant LLC and that of Bold & Fearless?

Julian Kiganda: Vibrant LLC is a full service Multicultural Marketing Communications firm. For the past eight years, we’ve worked with clients on everything from websites and historical exhibits to marketing campaigns and print collateral. Recently, I realized that although I enjoyed helping my clients solve their marketing and branding problems, I wasn’t: a) doing work that I was passionate about; b) working to my full potential; and, c) fulfilling the vision for my life that would have me excited to wake up every morning.

With Bold & Fearless, I have an opportunity to be my own client and create both products and a platform to communicate about the things that I know can help others reach their potential; as well as doing strategic consulting with clients… I will be doing a lot more writing, speaking and teaching than I currently am with Vibrant, and less of the hands-on design and project implementation. One of the biggest differences will be the opportunity for more interaction with others (as opposed to only one-on-one meetings with clients)—which I love!

MN: With both Vibrant and Bold & Fearless, you bring together your branding talent, African heritage, and your personal philosophies. What’s the advantage in incorporating your background (cultural, spiritual and otherwise) into one’s work? 

JK: I think especially now, in an increasingly globalized, diverse, and technologically connected world, cultural competency is mandatory to the survival of your business no matter where you’re located. From a spiritual perspective, I’ve seen a growing desire for people to be connected to something greater than themselves and for their lives to have real meaning. My personal relationship with God has almost always driven the vision that I have for my life and the projects that have come as a result of being clear about that vision. I don’t think that you can truly understand your purpose—personal or professional—without taking the time to know God.

MN: Let’s talk race. Do you think black entrepreneurs have a specific responsibility to help improve the plight of disadvantaged blacks?

JK: Absolutely. This was made even more clear to me several years ago when my firm was selected to design and build the Freedom House Museum [brand and experience] in Alexandria, VA. The Freedom House, formerly known as the Alexandria Slave Pen, was once the most successful domestic slave-trading firm in the United States. In fact, the last owner of the Slave Pen, James Birch, was the same man who sold Solomon Northup into slavery. Unless you study African American history in college, you really don’t learn the reality of what slavery did to the unit of the Black family.

… Although we’ve made incredible strides, it has been made apparent through the many recent stories of blatant racism and the policies that uphold that racism that we still have a lot of work to do. Understanding this, I have an obligation to teach what I know from having had the privilege to learn Black history from a deeper perspective, as well as to show positive images of people of color in the work that I do.

MN: One of your passions is creating deeper connections between Africans and African Americans. How is that connection good for business?  

JK: Africa has six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world. There are a number of corporations and countries taking advantage of the continent’s vast resources and endless opportunities, but there is still a noticeable lack of Black-owned businesses that are tapping into those opportunities. The reasons are too many to list, but there’s a reason why folks are flocking to Africa to do business. Although it takes patience, I can name many a business-owner from the U.S. who has reaped the rewards of doing business on the continent. Don’t sleep: Africa is where it’s at.

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond is the author of the novel Powder Necklace and founder of the blog People Who Write. Follow her on Twitter @nanaekua.

MN Business Tip Of The Day: Own A Word And Speak Volumes About Who You Are

February 3rd, 2014 - By Michelle Alerte
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One of the most powerful concepts in marketing is owning a word in the customer’s mind. It shouldn’t be a complicated word, but rather something simple that already carries a great deal of weight along with it.

For example, when you think of the word “safety,” in regards to driving what do you think of? Volvo owned that word forever.

When you think of “overnight,” in regards to delivery what pops up? FedEx usually, despite some recent holiday fails.

This is what owning a word in the customer’s mind can do for you. To achieve this result you’ll need to narrow your focus to a single word or concept. The most effective words are not only simple but also results-oriented. So it is always better to focus on one word or benefit rather than three or four. Once you have a solid footing with one benefit, customers are likely to associate your product or service with a lot of other benefits. A “safer” car implies better design, quality, and engineering.

In making your choice, remember that your word can be related to positive outcomes (cavity prevention), service-related (home delivery), audience-related (younger people), or sales-related (preferred brand).

Don’t Let The Sensitivity Fool You: Drake Can MakeHis Own Rules For Expanding His Brand

January 20th, 2014 - By Candace Smith
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via Instagram

via Instagram

Drake — aka Aubrey Graham — was an actor first, as Jimmy Brooks, the TV character disabled after a horrific school shooting. However, Aubrey had ambitions well beyond the hallways of a fictional Degrassi High.

Now past the famous “sophomore slump” period, Drake can manage his career his way. Black and Jewish, of Toronto provenance, with success as a child star on Canadian television… these ingredients normally do not mix to produce a flourishing recording artist. But, let’s face it, we love Drake’s brand of sensitive and we want more!

With his recently released album, Nothing Was The Same, collaborations with equally talented artists such as Jhene Aiko, Jay Z, and Big Sean, and his first hosting and performing debut on Saturday Night Live this past weekend, Drake is at a pivotal stage in his career where he can continue to benefit by expanding beyond his particular brand of “emo rap.” Here’s how:

Get back into acting

If you haven’t seen Drake’s first turn at hosting and performing on Saturday Night Live, you are missing out. Drake reminded us that he was once just Aubrey Graham, a young kid who auditioned while high on marijuana for a children’s television show. Edgy with the ability to show consideration for other’s feelings, Drake could go the way of Kid Cudi and star in a cable television show or take up meetings with buzzed-about independent directors and producers like Justin Simien or Ryan Coogler and audition for roles. After all, he did mention late last year that he’s “dying to get back into acting.” His debut on Saturday Night Live this year proves that the man is ready and able.

Try delving into other art forms

Sure, Drake has been featured in commercials for Sprite and Kodak, showing his business and marketing smarts. But he doesn’t have to simply hawk other products. He could choose to work with innovative leaders within the worlds of theater, photography, or other art forms where he has an interest and shows equal talent.

Open up his collaboration pool

Drake has enough experience and flair to help others in his position, which he is clearly doing by working with R&B soul singer Jhene Aiko. Drake may be inching towards the “Hippie R&B” genre in music, which was christened in 2013. If this is the case, Drake should look into other artists who could only profit from his seal of approval both in business and virtuosity, like FKA Twigs and Toro Y Moi.

Embrace technology 

As Drake’s popularity continues to increase, he should consider the footprints he could leave behind in the technological universe. Drake can explore the options to smartly invest in a commercial music streaming service or the next big music mobile app.

Lay low during non-traditional times

If he is to “expand the Drake brand,” he should definitely be strategic with his publicist. The public has long become savvy to the tricks of the entertainment game. When a new album or tour is on the horizon, controversy and other stunts suddenly appear in the tabloids. Drake can remain relevant, profound, distinctive, and on the beat of his own drum without being so obvious. Pull a Beyoncé and put out a secret mixtape without any warning. Refrain from getting caught up in romantic drama. He can let the work — and his reputation — speak for itself, and grow all the while.

Drake is a talented performer and he has the power to construct his art in new and original ways. Now that “emo-rap” is a credible music genre with Drake as one of its forefathers, he can take it any way his brand and skills allow. Expanding the “sensitive Drake” brand will require courage, further planning, and teamwork with unlikely partners to create what he could be without abandoning his core trademark.

Did Beyonce Just Change The Way Music Is Released With Her New Visual Album?

December 13th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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beyonce visual album

Supplied by Wenn

The internet (and the MadameNoire office) absolutely lost its mind over the news that Beyonce released an entire album — complete with a music video for each of its 14 songs — unexpectedly and without notice.

Her fifth and self-titled album was made available in the middle of the night after months of speculation about when new material would be complete, and months of howling from fans about the long lull between albums. (Her last record, “4,” came out in 2011.) For $16, you can head over to iTunes and quench that Queen Bey thirst now.

While we thought she was just touring and vacationing around the world, Beyonce was actually hard at work — collaborating with hubby Jay Z, Frank Ocean, Drake, even her little one Blue Ivy. Commenting in a video clip that accompanied the release, Bey says:

It’s so much that gets between the music and the art and the fans. I felt like, I don’t want anybody to get the message, when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready and from me to my fans.

According to Billboard, there were hints that an album would be coming before year’s end, but no definites. At a time when we hear news from around the world within seconds, that one of the most famous women in the world could keep a secret this huge until the album was out there is a huge feat.

But it’s also way different from the way that albums, movies, or even the re-introduction of Twinkies would normally be handled. Let’s take Lady Gaga’s “ArtPop” album or Kanye’s “Yeezus” as examples. These two records were accompanied by global art installations — Kanye projecting the “New Slaves” video on buildings around the world and Lady Gaga partnering with Jeff Koons on the cover art, a Brooklyn art show, and working with Marina Abramovic as a prelude.

Of course, they aren’t the only ones crowing about upcoming releases. Movies get months of promotion, with films like American Hustle getting nominated for huge industry awards like the Golden Globes weeks before moviegoers can even buy a ticket. Film trailers come out a year in advance.

And how much do we hear about the day an album will “drop” before it actually lands?

With no advanced notice, Beyonce is trending on Twitter (along with “Blue Ivy” and #QueenBey”), has media covering the celebrity reactions to the album, and has fans waking up their friends and spending that cash without blinking an eye. It’s basically a pre-Christmas gift. But instead of fans running to their Christmas trees to get their gift, they’re running to the internet to download it.

It says something about the power of silence and surprise. As Bey says, music executives, elaborate marketing campaigns, and the mad scramble for a concert ticket typically make so much noise, whipping people into a frenzy while also keeping them at arm’s length. She simply pushed it out on the web and let people know it was there. Not through some fake “leak,” but a genuine album release. Come one, come all. Have your fill of all of it.

Clearly, Beyonce has an advantage. But, other stars also have a dedicated fan base that would be online within moments for their new material. Sure, it’s not entirely gimmick-free; a “surprise” album is a marketing ploy in and of itself. But it’s a low-key one that doesn’t require a ton of stuff to generate hype. It’s probably also a cost-saver for labels that have seen dwindling album sales eat into their profits. They’re looking for ways to save money, and a lower marketing cost could be a great way to do that.

Going forward, something tells us we’re going to start seeing many more albums come out this way. Don’t be shocked if we’re waking up to new music delivered to us on Instagram and iTunes more frequently in 2014.

The Most Memorable Commercials of 2013

December 9th, 2013 - By Tanvier Peart
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super bowl bruno marsWith the year soon coming to an end, many advertisers have their eyes set on one of the biggest campaign opportunities of the any year, Super Bowl. Already sold out and going for as much as $4 million a slot, one can only imagine what companies have up their sleeves to get our attention and capture our business.
But until that time comes, it’s kinda fun to think about the commercials that left a lasting impression on us throughout the year. Are there any that come to mind? If so, what was it about the ad that kept you glued to your television? Here is a look back at some of the most memorable commercials of 2013. Of course there were many but these instantly came to mind.

9 Companies Every Small Business Owner Should Know

November 25th, 2013 - By Michelle Alerte
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For every business owner knowing where to go to get quality and inexpensive marketing materials is paramount. How would you solidify your brand without the aid of business cards, t-shirts, and other necessary supplies specific to your product or service? When searching for small business marketing tools, and even ideas, it’s important to know where to go and who to trust. Below you’ll find nine places that make it their business to keep you in business.

K-Mart ‘Yo Mama’ Commercials, Rap Video Receive Backlash From Viewers

July 31st, 2013 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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kmart-yo-mama-commercialThe latest K-mart commercials that feature grade-school children making quick-witted “Yo Mama” jokes about their classmates’ fashion-forward choices and another with a tween rap crew  is causing a raucous. While some find no harm in the ads, others are furious about the commercials’ “racist” undertones, reports Clutch.

“Did yo mama get that hoodie at K-mart?” one grade school kid asks another. “Yeah dawg!”, a young Latino boy replies. “Well yo mama must have cavities because that hoodie is sweet!”

“Well yo mama is so fiscally responsible, she got all that on free layaway!” a witty African-American girl jokes.

“Ohhhhhhh!” the kids in the schoolyard yelled.

“Your commercials are racist and disgusting,” one commenter says in all-caps on the K-Mart Facebook page. “I won’t be shopping here!” Admittedly, K-Mart is attempting to market these commercials to the budget-conscious and/or urban consumer. But I don’t think these slapstick, all-in-good-fun commercials are racially charged.

The joke is that the “Yo Mama” jokes are unexpected compliments, not insults. Yet, a large wave of television viewers are not tickled by the satirical wordplay. One viewer likened the Yo Mama jokesters to street kids or gang members. “They’re babbling and you can’t understand a word they say,” another person complains. “Very very poor example for kids to see.”

A K-Mart representative replied, “This commercial is a playful take on Kmart Layaway. We regret if it wasn’t your style.”