All Articles Tagged "multicultural"
Using Child’s Play To Tackle A Serious Issue: Dr. Lisa Williams Creates “Positively Perfect” Doll Line
“Sometimes we think life is pieces of disjointed events that happen. Actually they’re not, everything is woven together,” says Dr. Lisa Williams creator of Positively Perfect Dolls.
Acting as the brain behind the doll line, Williams’ background in supply-chain management is what led her to the venture backed by Wal-Mart. After graduating from Ohio State with a doctorate in business, Williams went on to teach at her alma mater as well as Penn State. Eventually, she was recruited by the University of Arkansas. There she received an endowed chair also funded by Wal-Mart.
Conducting research on logistics and supply-chain management as it relates to partnership trusts, she wrapped-up her time at the University of Arkansas with a literary project. Williams found great inspiration in business leaders and decided to write a book about reaching and sustaining success.
Acting on Inspiration
“I interviewed military generals, CEOs from Sears, Proctor & Gamble and Wal-Mart,” Williams says. “Wal-Mart approached me and asked if I’d be interested in having the book in their store.”
Williams’ book Leading Beyond Excellence gained rave reviews and she was later asked to hire writers to create a children’s series. Through her company — of which she is CEO — World of Entertainment, Publishing and Inspiration, Williams accepted.
“Being African American, I wanted to make sure that the books were representative of our community and culture. There were children in the books that were African American, Asian, and Hispanic,” says Williams.
Gleaning that she understood the multicultural community, Williams was then approached by Wal-Mart to create a line of dolls in November 2008. Reflecting on conversations with past students and others who came to her for advice, Williams discovered a trend in self-esteem issues. By highlighting positive self-identity as the basis of the line, Williams is attempting to tackle such issues early on.
“I didn’t know anything about dolls. I didn’t know what they were made from, how long it takes to make them, I knew nothing,” Williams confessed. “What I had was the desire to produce a product that would uplift the self-esteem of our little girls. From that vision I worked to find manufacturers and learn. I researched how to do it.”
Breaking the Mold
Williams spent 2009 and 2010 flying back and forth from China perfecting the skin tone, hair and facial features of the dolls. After choosing fabrics and customized paint for varying complexions and rosy cheeks, Williams convinced reluctant factories overseas to break the mold of African-American doll production. Many of them had experience making multicultural dolls and offered to work of what was already available. However, Williams’ goal is to have little girls recognize the distinct lips, noses, and eyes of the dolls — a doll that is representative of them.
“I knew what was on the market and wanted to be respectful, but I wanted to offer another option. The hardest part was me standing up and holding strong to the vision,” Williams added.
Though she had to learn a bit more about the production process, she had a clear vision of what the dolls should look like. Each one — like Darling Dayna and Marvelous Maria — has a positive attribute to encourage young girls that they can attain the same. The dolls of the DIVA collection are distinguished straight “A” students — Diana a great writer, Abrielle a dancer, and Zair an artist.
Connecting the Links in Business
“The inclusion of Positively Perfect fills a niche,” LaToya Evans, Wal-Mart’s senior manager of corporate communications tells Madame Noire. “We’re the first in the United States to carry them and we’re very happy to have them in our holiday assortment this year.”
After a few years of trial and error, Positively Perfect Dolls hit the shelves in September 2012. Next spring, the line will be sold at similar retailers.
Interestingly enough, Williams founded World of Entertainment, Publishing and Inspiration in 2003, long before she’d lend her expertise to a project that is very fitting. Before working first-hand with manufacturers Williams had a firm knowledge of customs, freight forwarding, warehousing and distribution, which helped in her journey.
Williams’ full-circle in business is a testament to how taking chances within a familiar industry can further develop even those with the highest accolades. Williams is the first African-American woman to graduate from Ohio State’s marketing and logistics program. She is also the first woman to receive an esteemed multi-million-dollar endowed chair in her area of research.
“I knew I had this incredible opportunity to work with the largest retailer on the planet,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that opportunity was used wisely.”
Aronte Bennett, assistant professor of marketing and business law at Villanova University, has been studying how different ethnic groups respond to advertising and the groups’ perceptions of brands. In a column on Advertising Age, she discusses the findings, including the fact that, despite cultural and ethnic differences, multicultural groups tend to respond similarly to advertising and brands.
The All-American brands were perceived the same way by all four groups. The troubled and luxury brands were perceived similarly by all the minorities, but differently by the majority. In the nonprofit category, we found distinct differences among the minorities, as well as minority versus majority.
One thing that impacted the way these communities perceived brands was if the brand had advertising that reflected their lives—ie, if there was a diverse group of people in the ads.
Bennett’s full findings will be released in early 2013, but her preview of the data comes at an interesting time. There was a recent dust-up over the insensitivity of a Durex condom ad that ran in China. And the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) just recently hosted its 2012 Multicultural Marketing and Diversity conference in Miami. A lot of this coverage focused on marketing to Hispanic consumers, especially as the ANA released data showing that 88 percent of US marketers use new media tactics to reach Hispanic consumers, compared to 54 percent who target blacks. At the conference, there were some insights into the black community, however.
Walmart SVP of brand marketing and advertising Tony Rogers spoke about a multicultural advisory committee, which includes the company’s Hispanic, black, and Asian-focused agencies.
“One hundred percent of the growth [in sales] is going to come from multicultural customers,” he said, according to AdAge. “Our spending against multicultural customers will grow by at least 100%.”
The ANA’s data also showed that 60 percent of marketers planned to increase their budgets for multicultural marketing on new media channels, which included social media and mobile, and that 24 percent plan to keep budgets the same.
Black Girls Rock! (BGR) in partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and P&G’s My Black is Beautiful campaign has launched the Imagine a Future Project, a program that, according to BGR founder Beverly Bond, will “empower and touch the lives of one million girls over the course of three years.” Through this program, there will be a national and regional (and perhaps worldwide) push to continue BGR’s philanthropic work with and on behalf of African-American girls.
As you probably know, Black Girls Rock! is the nonprofit organization dedicated to mentoring and uplifting black girls while also tackling issues associated with media depictions of black women and girls. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the organization per se, you likely recognize the name from the BET awards show that airs annually. No doubt, you’ve heard of the United Negro College Fund (“A mind is a terrible thing to waste”), which has been around for more than 40 years. And perhaps you know My Black is Beautiful because you’re friends with it on Facebook. The campaign has 761,000 Facebook likes, a website and tons of exposure through P&G’s promotion. The partnership was facilitated by PR and marketing firms Egami Consulting Group and MSLGroup. If you’re unfamiliar with Egami, click here to watch our She’s The Boss video with CEO Teneshia Jackson Warner.
Bring them together and you have a program that targets and supports black women and girls in their personal lives and public portrayals.
A Partnership Focused on African-American Women and Girls
P&G’s My Black is Beautiful sponsored BGR Queens’ Camp for Leadership and Excellence, a two-week program that took place this month and hosted 50 girls between the ages of 13 and 17. On August 1, those 50 girls made a trip to Egami and MSLGroup, who hosted an event offering a “day in the life” of a multicultural PR agency like Egami.
“There’s an expectation for brands to have a presence in the communities in which they live,” Warner told us. “As we build campaigns, we’ll find synergies to bring in community partners.” Moreover, Egami wants to include staff members, which is why the firm participated in the event. And the young participants learned that the information they collect every day — what’s in, what’s new, what’s exciting — is just the stuff that’s critical to a career in PR.
According to Bond, she was approached with the idea for these sorts of partnered initiatives, something that happens quite often because of the unique, high-profile nature of her organization.
“We make sure people just aren’t supporting the TV show and the glam, but the work we do,” Bond says. Still, she says, she is the “majority owner” of BGR, the beating heart of the organization. “That’s probably the biggest misconception. BET doesn’t support our nonprofit,” she continues. “It’s tough getting people to recognize that we need the help. We’re doing everything that nonprofits should be doing, but it’s still tough.”
The advertising and marketing fields have been grappling with the issue of diversity for a long time now. Tanner Colby also tackles the issue in an interview with Ad Age magazine, promoting his new book Some of My Best Friends Are Black, which deals with integration across the U.S. It should be noted that Colby, who has also published two previous books about John Belushi and Chris Farley, isn’t black. He was inspired to do the book after he noticed the he didn’t have any African-American friends.
Colby spent nine years as an ad copywriter before he became an author. Research shows that there are barriers to blacks pursuing a career in advertising. Among them, lower pay and the persistent belief that African-American marketers can only specialize in areas that target other African Americans. In other words, it’s a niche.
“I can tolerate it and make money and hang out and figure out what I’m going to do, but for black people to want to be a cultural ambassador in an all-white world, it’s a cultural business, you’re going to run into those difficult questions of who do we cast in this commercial and why. Unless you like being the black person who is comfortable tackling those issues then you’re not going to stay, whereas I don’t have to deal with that as much,” he tells the magazine.
At another point in the interview, he says that minority agencies (“set asides,” he calls them) were created “to keep blacks out of the main industry.”
The advertising world doesn’t just suffer from a lack of diversity, but a cultural segregation that goes beyond race.
“The fallacy of the diversity movement is that they say we’re going to capture all this new diversity, but the only diversity that really works are people who are already acculturated into the industry,” Colby adds.
While he says that the Internet has changed things by moving people through all sorts of websites and topics irrespective of race, the problem of attracting talent and changing the mindset persists. Moreover, evolution needs to happen on all sides — at the big agencies and the multicultural ones. You can read all of the Q&A here.
Current Occupation: CEO of Uniworld Group, a multicultural marketing agency
A CEO with an open door policy is rare in the advertising industry. If the show Mad Men is any indication, ad meetings are held behind closed doors where suited white male account managers smoke cigarettes and drink hard liquor until an idea manifests. Monique Nelson has changed the face of advertising.
Nelson is the new Chief Executive Officer of Uniworld Group (what she calls a 42-year-old “startup”) that was most recently run by the agency’s founder, legendary ad man Byron Lewis. Its clients include Ford Motor Company, Lincoln and the U.S. Marines. A Brooklyn native, Nelson now heads an international company with collaborative interaction and a passion for all things creative.
MN: What kind of household did you grow up in?
Monique Nelson: I was born and raised here in Brooklyn. My mom was a science teacher and my father is an electrical engineer who’d gone to Howard University. They’ve been married 43 years and I can literally see my junior high from my window. I grew up in a brownstone in Bed-Stuy. My life felt a lot like the Cosbys.
MN: What were your early aspirations?
Monique Nelson: I went to performing arts high school as a vocal major. I figured out that I could not stand rejection and hated the audition process. When you go to the Fame high school, you have these HUGE expectations. “I’m gonna be a star!” But once I saw what a star really looked like — people like Monifah, Omar Epps, Marlon Wayans — you start to see people that are really passionate about their art.Singing was just something that I liked to do, but it was nothing that I was super passionate about. And I heard people with voices that were just absolutely out of this world.
MN: Tell us about your academics?
Monique Nelson: Vanderbilt University was where everything changed for me. I left New York and went to Nashville, TN on a university scholarship thinking that I wanted to be a doctor. My first semester of biology, I failed and it was my first big failure. It was devastating on so many levels, but it forced me to think about other things.
MN: When did you eventually fall in love with marketing?
Monique Nelson: While working in Wisconsin at International Papers, I got in with the marketing manager at the time, who happens to be this phenomenal women who I absolutely ended up adoring over time. She had three kids and was a senior director in marketing. I wasn’t really sure what marketing was 22 years ago. We started walking through the process of selling this brown paper that was on the back of the Post-It notes. We ended up having a meeting with some of our sister companies and everyone came together to say that they were introducing colors to the Post-It notes. All of a sudden they were creating a market.
Let me tell you: selling paper is not hot. When you have to sell something as basic as a sheet of paper and tons of it, it showed me that marketing was really deep. That’s what sparked my marketing bug.
The reaction to news that Shaunie O’Neal and Tracey Edmonds sold a “Basketball Wives”-like project to Fox films was like the cringe heard around the world. Already fed up with the nonsense shown on VH1 every Monday night, many easily dismissed this venture as a feature-length version of either her life or the reality TV show she produces, and people weren’t exactly thrilled about the possibility of either one. In an interview with Vibe though, Shaunie claims the movie will be nothing like the reality series we love to hate and she even suggests the film is an opportunity for her to redeem herself.
“It’s fictional. It’s a movie, so it has nothing… I see people on Twitter saying, ‘Oh god, you guys gon’ take that and turn it into a movie?’ You don’t take a reality show and make it a movie. At least I wouldn’t,” she said. “It’s not a quote, unquote ‘basketball wives movie.’ Even though it has to do with basketball life, it’s not actually taking Basketball Wivesfrom TV and making it a movie. And it’s not about women sitting around arguing or lunching all the time. It’s an actual story. It’s a love story. It’s an empowering story. It’s funny. It’s life. It’s similar—we’ve taken a girl who’s just going into the NBA life and experiencing things and showing the whole story. She learns from the organization. She learns from other wives. And by the end of the story, it’s empowering for women and men. It’s so nothing like the TV show at all. No comparison.”
Empowerment and learning really aren’t defining characteristics of the VH1 show so Shaunie may be telling the truth about this film. During the interview, she also explained why she thought this project was necessary.
“It was important for me to have other outlets outside of ‘Basketball Wives’ to represent myself and who I really am and what I really would like to put out there. Because, again, I did reality TV and I can’t control that. I can’t control how everybody acts and what everybody sees. This, I can control [laughs]. If I come and I say, “This is what I envision, this is what I feel, this is what I see,” with the help of others, we sit around and collaborate on how this vision can come alive and how we can make it entertaining and how we can make people interested. And [Tracey] understood what I was saying. She got where I was coming from. We always wanted to work together on something, be it TV, movie or whatever. We sat around and talked about this for a couple months and I was so eager to make it happen because I needed some other ways to almost redeem myself. Like, this is not what I’m about people, [laughs] so let me show you. And it’s not my only way of showing but it’s a huge start. And it’s one that I know I’m gonna be 110 percent proud of.”
Since the deal was just closed last Monday, Shaunie says production is in the very early stages with the writer still finishing the script. She does know a little somethin’ somethin’ about the cast though.
“We haven’t casted yet, but I wouldn’t call [the movie] a Black woman’s story. It’s going to be a multiracial cast. Of course, there will be Black women ’cause most of the NBA seems to be. But it is going to be multiracial.”
Sounds like “Basketball Wives” to me.
Do you think Shaunie can redeem herself with this film?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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When thinking about advertising, the process behind showcasing a great product or service to mass consumers seems simple. First off, it helps to actually have a great universal product. Second, it’s strategizing and creating either a funny, identifiable or emotional message. Lastly, it’s placing the ad on TV, radio, print or the World Wide Web. Sound about right? Not exactly.
In actuality, advertising can be complex. Add a cultural approach to the equation, even more so. Unfortunately, a three-part checklist won’t do the trick. If only each and every consumer was one in the same, what an easy task it would be to get messages across. However, with an estimated U.S. Asian population of 15.5 million and a Hispanic population of 48.4 million, there’s no denying ethnicity and culture is a prevalent staple in everyday life—that deserves recognition.
“The number of corporations that do specific ethnic advertising is still relatively small,” says Burrell Communication co-CEO Fay Ferguson. “Making communications programs beamed at these audiences is not only necessary, but critical.”
McDonald’s Corporation —one of Burrell’s long-standing clients — is an example of one that outsources, allowing the agency to create advertisements for the African-American community.
Hard to Reach
With recent studies, advertisements and agencies pushing cross-cultural communications, it’s a blur as to what multicultural tactics are even effective. Should agencies stretch one message or slogan across cultures without alteration? Should advertisers reach out to individual ethnicities tailoring their brand so that’s it’s culturally relevant? Is it absolutely necessary for advertisers to reach out to every market?
“It’s definitely important for companies to understand that the Latino community is growing. The Asian community is growing as well and if they don’t tap into these communities, they’re going to find themselves in a very small segment in the actual market,” said Alfonso Covarrubias, creative director at multicultural advertising agency Maya.
Almost 100 years ago, Madam CJ Walker became America’s first self-made female millionaire of any race by creating hair products specifically for black people. This brilliant entrepreneur took advantage of the beauty industry’s decision to ignore black consumers by instead serving them well. An economic visionary, Walker also created a beauty school that fed a job market for the black women selling her products. Madam CJ Walker’s acumen in the field of beauty was an overall boon to African-Americans.
In the ‘50s Abram Minis, founder of Carson, Inc., made a grip formulating ubiquitous household products like Dark & Lovely. Black entrepreneurs Edward and Bettiann Gardner founded SoftSheen in the ‘60s, the firm responsible for the infamously greasy Care Free Curl. The early ‘70s saw the birth of Fashion Fair cosmetics, launched by the owners of Johnson Publishing to help black women find make-up that matched their skin. Black businesses have been central to the development of products African-American women need to look good.
But recent moves by mainstream brands make the original need to have our own beauty companies questionable. Revlon and similar entities now shell out millions for spokeswomen like Halle Berry hoping to attract our audience. Mainstream brands like CoverGirl are partnering with stars like Queen Latifah to design lines that target consumers of color. Pantene has created highly popular shampoos and conditioners for relaxed and natural hair.
Black customers may want to support our beauty businesses to reverse years of economic inequality and keep money in the community. Yet, this is an increasingly difficult task, because beauty giants are snapping up black-owned companies, even as they manufacture products for people of African descent.
In the 1940s, African-American psychologists Kenneth Bancroft Clark and his wife, Mamie Phillps Clark, designed a test known as the “doll test” to see how children responded to race. The test was administered to black children between the ages of three and seven. When the children were asked which of the four dolls that they were shown did they prefer, the majority selected the white doll and described it as most desirable, whereas the black dolls were described as the least desirable.
In recent years, there have been conscious attempts within the toy industry to present a more diverse selection of dolls—Mattel introduced the “black” Barbie, the cabbage patch kids now include dolls of a darker hue, and Disney released a doll of its first black princess. Despite these efforts, some African-Americans have taken it upon themselves to create and produce dolls and other kid friendly items to help instill a sense of self-pride and self-awareness in minority children. Here’s our list of those black toy companies that are helping to make the industry more reflective of today’s diverse children’s population:
From the time he was a little boy, Sterling Ashby was a comic book enthusiast. His boyhood passion and a Christmas shopping experience inspired him to create his own line of collectibles. The idea came to Ashby in 2003 when he purchased a doll of a famous scientist for a friend’s son. Ashby and the young boy were both amazed by the doll. Using that experience as a guide, Ashby launched History in Action Toys, a line that consists of a series of action figures that Ashby describes as fun, positive role models whose real-life stories are designed to awaken both a child’s imagination and appeal to the kid in everyone.
Of course, America’s reaction to any show on which Obama appears will be extreme. It’ll either be “oh my God, I love Barack and my boo better start acting like him (or Michelle),” or “oh my God, he’s a socialist and he’s about to bring ‘The Apocalypse’.” So, there’s no real use arguing many of Obama’s points on The View…save for one simple point he made: resist the urge to assume the worst about people who are different from you.
After hearing this point, I’d hoped that a few Essence magazine readers, who’d flung their arms in uproar over Essence’s white fashion editor, were watching.
Obama had made this point after View host Whoopi Goldberg asked him “who are we…Mr. President… what are we?” in reference to race in this country. He responded: “we’re American.” And while racism and discrimination are still entrenched in our society, he said, we should try our darndest to resist what he called the “reptilian side of our brains,” the side that triggers us to “become cautious” whenever we see somebody that “looks different” or “sounds different” from us.
Sure, we’ve heard such Kumbaya-Bama lines before. In fact, many of us have subscribed to them. Yet, we never consider just how much our commitment to multiculturalism requires. Not only must we fight injustices directed against us, we must also fight those “reptilian” voices in our heads that cause us to reject others because of their whiteness.
Sound familiar, Essence readers?
Can’t our generation be the generation that brings back the “au naturelle” styles that pivot black beauty—and, simultaneously, be the generation that could care less if Essence hires a white editor or if a brotha marries a white woman? Seriously. Who cares? The new fashion editor, Elliana Placas, at Essence may not be as cocoa-lovely or mocha-amazing or butterscotch-banging as you, and she may not have the fluffy, African ‘fro you’ve worked so hard to grow and condition every morning, but she just may have valid talents to offer the predominantly black female lifestyle magazine.
Based on the Essence editor-in-chief’s description of Placas’ hiring, Placas doesn’t seem like some wayward woman who will rip the soul from Essence and convert all its fashion pages into bourgie and booty-unfriendly wear.
So, what are we afraid of sisters? More importantly, why are we afraid? Why is the presence of whiteness so frightening in the context of black progress? We cannot continue to be crippled by feelings of hurt and outrage spurred by other people’s racist attitudes. We cannot, and should not, adapt the culture of discrimination passed down from a bitter and shameful history of slave owners, and what I’ll now call Fox News’ Reptilian Republicans—who make the more rational members of their party look bad.
Let the hate be for the haters. Skin aside, I want to be treated well, and treat others just as well. “I’m less interested in how we label ourselves, and more interested in how we treat each other,” Obama said on the show.
China Okasi is the senior editor of MadameNoire.com