Can we finally leave the marketing calendar behind this Juneteenth?

Michael Roca, managing director, multicultural media planning and buying, PHD USA
Michael Roca, managing director, multicultural media planning and buying, PHD USA

Representing Black culture is a social responsibility and a business imperative that goes well beyond the 30-some days currently allotted to it.

Just over a year ago, there was scant awareness of Juneteenth outside of the Black community, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a line-item for ads marking the event on any media budget. 

What a difference a year makes.

This week, we will see the first mass-market celebration of this pivotal date in American history, including a variety of marketing campaigns. Recognition by corporate America and the marketing community is long past due. But the industry’s rapid adoption of Juneteenth underscores the essential flaw in how we continue to approach Black audiences: as a function of events on a calendar, with far too many brands here today, gone tomorrow.

According to research from Google and Ipsos Connect, three out of four Black millennials are more likely to consider a brand that positively reflects Black culture. But that can no longer happen within the confines of the commemorative events that have long shaped messaging to these consumers. Actor Rege-Jean Page effectively captured the scope of today’s cultural expectation when he accepted an NAACP Image award for the Netflix series Bridgerton by saying, “It is an honor to represent us in the fullness of our humanity, our joy, our glamour, our splendor and our love.”   

For marketers, representing Black culture in all of these contexts is more than an honor — it’s a social responsibility and a business imperative. And it’s a one that goes well beyond the 30-some days currently allotted to it. 

So this year, as we celebrate Juneteenth — a day that is all about Black joy and optimism —  perhaps we reach an inflection point between the old paradigm and a more holistic approach rooted in Mr. Page’s expansive definition of representation.

Here are three things marketers can do now to start moving toward that goal:  

Upstream the Black audience opportunity

Prioritize the Black audience from the get-go. Don’t let it be an afterthought in the briefing process. Allocate the proper resources and funding to make a cultural impact through opportunities dedicated to the Black audience.  

Large corporate initiatives that celebrate and empower the Black community 365 days include P&G’s My Black is Beautiful, McDonald’s Black and Positively Golden and Target’s also Black Beyond Measure, which features Black-owned clothing, beauty and skincare brands and includes a partnership with Black-owned 1863 Ventures to raise $1 billion by 2030. 

Use media channels that resonate

Understanding that budget and ambition don’t always align, brands may need to get inventive as they work toward a more consistent and authentic presence among Black audiences. 

Audio is often overlooked, but it’s one of the most trusted sources of news and information in the Black community. It's not only a cost-effective, but highly engaged environment. Black Americans spend more time per week streaming audio, including podcast listening, then the total U.S. population, according to Nielsen.

Include “media that is for us, by us and owned by us”

Make the phrase “you’re known by the company you keep” a core tenant of your investment strategy. 

By working with Black-owned, created and targeted media, brands can leverage the trusted place these partners hold in Black culture as well as their understanding of cultural nuances, priorities and passion points to become an authentic daily presence in the lives of Black consumers. 

Brands should also push their agencies to facilitate investments with diverse publishers and creators, going beyond spend commitments to deliver solutions that address barriers of scale and access to expand the reach and impact of media investment.

Michael Roca is managing director, multicultural media planning and buying, PHD USA 

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