It’s Time for the Marketing Industry to Credit Black culture

It’s time for the marketing industry to credit Black culture

by Dyamond Gordon

February 13, 2024 The Information

Dyamond Gordon, senior marketing manager, Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing. (Photo credit: Association of National Advertisers, used with permission)
Dyamond Gordon, senior marketing manager, Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing. (Photo credit: Association of National Advertisers, used with permission)

Black culture has long been a source of creative innovation, influencing everything from music, to fashion to language. But where is the credit?

Desperation breeds innovation — or, as we would say in my homeland of Jamaica, “Sometimes yuh haffi tun yuh hand fi mek fashion.”

Black culture, influenced by the (unfortunately, required) fortitude of its people across the world, has birthed trends and fostered undeniable growth across entire continents, not to mention within businesses. This influence has provided a springboard for the continuous evolution of branding and marketing in a globalized world.

With deep roots firmly planted in art, music, fashion, language and storytelling, the likeness and creative influences of Black people have long been a beacon of innovation across industries. Yet, through societal omissions, we rarely notice how much Black cultural influences have touched everything we experience.

Marketing, which thrives on capturing and creating moments to connect with audiences, has always drawn from Black culture’s wellspring.

Marketers have long recognized the power of music to evoke emotion and drive connection, often turning to genres that are rooted in the Black experience to lend authenticity and emotional depth to campaigns. And the adoption of streetwear aesthetics, plus the resurgence of bold prints, long nails with charms, layered jewelry and inclusive beauty trends all speak to the enduring influence of Black fashion.

Even the language used in advertising has been significantly influenced by Black vernacular. Terms originally coined within Black communities across the world — think “bae,” “lit” and more — have found their way into the mainstream. Queer Black culture, and specifically the underground ball culture movement led by Black and Latino Americans, gave us slang words like “fierce,” “werk,” “shade” and many more.

All these examples serve as a testament to the culture's ability to set trends and dictate what's considered cool, appealing and, more importantly, effective. The sparks are lit because we’re “lit.”

“I’m Lovin’ It,” a slogan as synonymous with McDonald’s as candied yams are to soul food, or ackee and saltfish are to Jamaica (and my homesick heart), was written by Pusha T — a rapper who hails from the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia).

Pat McGrath and Rihanna, both women of Caribbean descent, have disrupted the beauty industry and set new standards for inclusivity simply because their lived experiences pushed them to make the industry better for everyone, no matter their skin tone.

Dapper Dan orchestrated a shift in hip-hop fashion from his Harlem neighborhood. Beyoncé changed the way music was released forever when she dropped Lemonade.

The list goes on.

These contributions highlight an essential truth: Black culture and talent are often the unsung heroes behind mainstream market advancement.

However, our embrace of Black culture isn’t without its contradictions. While marketers are eager to adopt its aspects and aesthetics, there is a noticeable hesitance within the industry to fully engage with the creators and communities behind these trends by providing them their fair share and attribution when it’s due.

Black peoples’ ability to influence the cultural zeitgeist requires acknowledgment of their social and spending power and a real commitment to ensuring that this contribution is celebrated, respected and compensated fairly.

Ultimately, Blackness will continue to thrive in the face of adversity. It will continue to prove true that ingenuity and growth within marketing have roots in Black culture.

As we persist in prioritizing the advancement of DE&I, the future of marketing lies within the dichotomy of good-faith adoption and true integration.

Black people will continue to “tun dem hand fi mek fashion,” but we should all work to ensure that the tools necessary to deliver the creativity we often see are readily available.

It's time that credit is given where credit is due.

Dyamond Gordon is a senior marketing manager at ANA’s Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM).

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