Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 19 seconds

Combating Colorism and Tokenism in Marketing

Marketers who want to connect with and serve Black and brown communities, first need to acknowledge that colorism exists and is systemic, according to a recent article from the Harvard Business Review.

The author contends that marketers need to “break through our own collective biases, which inform who we choose to feature and whose stories get told in marketing.” The article offers four tips for how to fight colorism, or the practice of favoring and valuing “white standards of beauty.”

First, educators and firms can create awareness about colorism and how to deal with it. “Without a common understanding of the specific preference that exists for lighter skin and ‘Eurocentric’ features, we’ll continue to make the mistakes other brands have made in how they show up in the marketplace.”

It is also important to broaden your ecosystem of agency partnerships, according to the Harvard Business Review article. Before launching a marketing initiative, its important to be sure you are hearing from the communities you want to serve. “Are you collaborating with culturally competent agency partners who also have diversity of representation? Supplier diversity initiatives are critical… When you diversify your supplier base, you’ll in turn diversify the communities you serve with your brand, unlocking new opportunities for growth.”

Finally, firms should stop casting “racially ambiguous” models and be intentional about including diversity in product shots. The practice of including racially ambiguous and ethnically neutral models, and not models that are “too dark,” is designed to not alienate white audiences. However, this approach ignores the $1.3 trillion in spending power of black consumers.

“Stop casting racially ambiguous models,” the author writes. “Intentionally cast and feature dark-skinned models and actors in your content and programming.”
Similarly, product shots that only show white hands holding jars or ingredients, are missing the mark. “ Be intentional about all product shots from the start, whether that’s a jar of peanut butter, a laptop, or a book. Don’t default to stock photography… Mandate that your agency partners include Black, indigenous, and people of color photographers in a request for proposal process.”

NetflixNetflix Bozoma Saint John on Tokenism and the importance of diverse voices
“I wasn’t put in this role because I’m a Black woman," she said of her role as CMO of Netflix, according to an article from the Hollywood Reporter. "I was put in this role because I’m dope at what I do. And the fact that I’m a Black woman is just the extra sauce. You’re lucky that I’m a Black woman, that I have the perspective I have, that I have the nuance of experience, that I can look at things from an angle that’s different from the way everybody else in the room is looking at it." 

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