Should There Be Multicultural Marketing Response in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?
Editorial by Gwendolyn Kelly, Senior Advertising Specialist, American Family Insurance (www.amfam.com)
This is a question I have come to ask of myself as a practitioner of multicultural marketing. I’m not sure of the answer, given the stories that are coming to our attention each and every day in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Over these past two weeks, I have personally struggled to come to grips with the enormity of the human, social and cultural devastation of this natural disaster. Yes, I have to confront the fact that the human suffering we have witnessed has largely, but not exclusively, been that of poor, under-educated and marginalized black folks and others who had been abandoned by society long before Hurricane Katrina struck.
In the coming weeks, as the debate is surely to heighten, there will be provocative debate on the topics of tough policy decisions, this nation’s troubled racial history and the racial and economic barriers that continue to separate Americans more than 40 years later after landmark civil rights legislation.
In the multicultural marketing space, we tirelessly demonstrate via strong and reliable metrics the need for Corporate America to recognize the economic clout that ethnic populations deliver to the bottom line. And with our diversity practitioner cousins, we show diversity management initiatives along with multicultural marketing initiatives are not “optional” best practices at the companies for whom we work. As reported this week by Diversity Inc., the result of these efforts is illustrated in the response from Corporate America to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts has been unprecedented, not only in size but also in swiftness in delivery.
But has this event resulted in a paradigm shift of how we move forward in multicultural marketing and diversity? Without a doubt, the multicultural programs and initiatives, which have been developed in recent years, certainly have had a tremendous economic impact throughout the New South. After all, over half of the African American population of this country lives in the South. What marketer among us hasn’t written a marketing plan, in this case targeting African Americans, in which it was absolutely critical to include markets like New Orleans, Atlanta, Memphis and Louisville just to name a few?
So, let others debate the political, social, and cultural implications of Katrina. Let others do the politicizing… that is not a required function of the job we do. But let’s be honest; multicultural marketing will be a beneficiary, whether good or bad, of the debate and political reactions that are sure to come.
Those of us who are operating in this multicultural marketing space should not shy from reacting to the images seen and the statistics revealed from the Gulf Coast region. We should be challenged. This is a time of examination and some deep soul-searching. Let us consider how we acknowledge and respond to this tragedy. Yes, on the corporate front, many Fortune 500 companies have come through with amazing displays of resources in true generosity of time, talent and treasure. That has been the immediate reaction and response. We need to acknowledge the long haul nature of this event; this will not go away overnight. We need and should dig deeper.
Let us together try to answer the question posed in the headline. And here’s one suggestion to consider: let the response be by what we do best: invigorating and infusing our programs and initiatives with more strength and a renewed determination to build, transform and empower every ethnic market we claim we value and respect.
Moderator’s Comment: How would you respond to Gwendolyn Kelly’s question: “Should there be multicultural marketing
response in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?” Do you think the disaster and the tremendous charitable response will influence future multicultural marketing strategies?
George Anderson – Moderator