Why All Marketing and Communications Majors Need Cultural Studies Courses

Marketing and communications teams at companies across the globe are not all black. After doing some research myself, I noticed that a lot of firms might have an asian or a middle eastern person, but no color. This means that non-black individuals are often charged with telling the story of someone who doesn’t look like them. Telling someone else’s truth in an effort to market your product or service is a major responsibility, one that many brands and companies have dropped the ball on.

As noted in my previous blog posts, brands are grossly out of touch with the culture and history of minority groups in America and abroad. We’ve seen it with Dove, H&M, Popeye’s, the list goes on and on… So what is the underlying issue? Is it ignorance or a lack of consideration?

I strongly feel that the racist messaging in these campaigns is a result of ignorance on the marketer’s behalf. As a communications major of color in college, I knew my history and my culture. I also knew about Latino culture and White culture. I had a best friend in high school who was Native American and Black. I learned what was offensive to her people and what wasn’t.

That is what sets me a part from the typical marketer. I seek knowledge and understanding of people from different backgrounds. College students today are not making themselves acquainted with other cultures, and when the time comes to work in the real world, they create BS campaigns that end up offending a large number of folks from the demographic on the chopping block. Oddly enough, black people are often the victims of poor marketing.

Black people are often exploited and disrespected because of the color of their skin in messaging from brands. Take the Dove advertisement as an example. Although they say their purpose was not malicious, the imagery of a black woman becoming clean by turning into a white woman was definitely crass to say the least.

Had research and even common sense been employed, it would have been obvious that over the past several hundred years dark skin has been used in messaging as bad, evil, unclean, and unattractive. So when using a dark skin woman who enjoys your product, feeding into the negative history was certainly a bad idea.

It is a MUST to learn about the history of your demographics. Who are they? Where do they come from? The who, what, when, where, but most importantly the WHY is the key to creating messaging that is respectful and effective. This starts by educating yourself and having a diverse group of people on marketing and communications teams. College students, you need the history and the perspective to be the best marketers and communicators that you can be.

I encourage you to sign up for a cultural studies class. Read some books about the experiences of other cultures in America and abroad. Gain as much perspective and insight as you can. Your marketing career will thank you for it.

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