Why A Visionary West Point Graduate Wants To Save Your Brand
The path for graduates of the prestigious United States Military Academy at West Point is pre-written: They are expected to serve five years in the U.S. Army.
West Point graduate Dionna McPhatter took another path, in the volatile world of marketing.
McPhatter, once an all-star member of the Army Black Knights women’s basketball team, had undergone three hip surgeries by the time she reached her West Point graduation date in 2004. She was medically discharged and accepted a job in consumer insights with Procter & Gamble.
Her career quickly took off. She became vice president of marketing at Reckitt Benckiser, a multinational company that owns ubiquitous brands Lysol, Calgon and Woolite. Then, she gave it all up to start her own marketing agency, BLKBOX, with her former West Point classmate Keenan Beasley.
BLKBOX launched in 2014 with a mission to disrupt the marketing landscape. Just by existing, BLKBOX is disruptive—it’s one of the only minority-owned marketing agencies in Manhattan.
I asked McPhatter to help me dissect brand missteps and successes, and she did it with visionary candor. Our conversation covered big brand scandals, diversity and inclusion in advertising, and the future of marketing:
Marlena Hartz: Why is disrupting the marketing landscape important to you?
Dionna McPhatter: I think marketing in its purest sense should actually provide value to people. That’s how I see marketing at its core, and I think we’ve lost our way. The traditional advertising world today, even with all the advances in technology, has lost this perspective. There’s a big gap in understanding, core listening and empathy in the marketing and advertising world.
Hartz: Big brands have recently made major marketing missteps, producing culturally offensive ads. What stands out to you as one of the biggest missteps?
McPhatter: The Pepsi debacle with Kendall Jenner. To me, it was like there was a brief—here are all the things that need to be present—but there was no context of actual people’s lives, what actually moves people and is emotionally resonating. That to me shows the kind of disruption we need to be relevant today in the world of advertising.
Hartz: Conversely, what recent campaign stands out as effective?
McPhatter: The Amazon commercial, where the guy orders a lion costume online. It so simply captured a life change, and the part that I would emulate is the simple insight. That’s a human truth—you go through times in life where one change changes everything. One change, the presence of a baby, literally changed everything. Bringing that to life in a way that people can relate to is actually harder than it sounds.
Hartz: What should brands like Pepsi or the Kardashians do in the wake of a content scandal?
McPhatter: Instead of worrying about yourself, go close to the audience that you’ve quote unquote “offended.” Don’t dig your heels in. Go to that community. If I felt like it was genuine from Kim Kardashian or Kylie, if I felt like there were people of every skin tone on their team, I wouldn’t expect it [a scandal]. One of the things that Rihanna is getting the most credit for is her lighter shades of makeup. That’s amazing to me. It’s inclusive. I’m not questioning a black person for doing lighter shades because she just exudes this inclusion.
Hartz: What steps do you take at BLKBOX to ensure your content is effective?
McPhatter: Being out in the market and not just staying in our nice offices in New York. We have a balance of perspectives and views in our office.
We have every livable content represented on our team. The conversations that happen around our table are going to be more challenging, and we think that’s a good thing. We’re going to end in a result that appeals to more people because we pressure-tested more through different points of view.
For me, diversity isn’t being a person who just from the outside looks very diverse. It’s diversity of thought. Being in an environment where everyone thinks just like me is also very unhealthy. You need diversity of thought so you can appeal to more people. That’s the magic. That’s why we have varying age groups, different generations, and people from the Midwest and the West Coast and outside of the U.S.
Hartz: What’s the next step for brands that want to authentically respond to social movements like #BlackLivesMatter or #MeToo?
McPhatter: There is a more salient awareness of our bias, which I think is a great thing. I hope that it has a lasting impact, and it changes our behavior, resulting in actions that are truly more inclusive and less biased. That’s what I’m hopeful for. I’m a little bit cynical. Ultimately, it’s about where people invest their time and money—that’s what will show us if there will be transformational action. Are we dealing with the wage gap? Are we investing more in women and in diverse groups of people? Is it easier for them to get a loan? Is there more representation in advertising and campaigns, and not just on a cool lifestyle yoga campaign but an everyday brand of yore? I want to see more brands acting like a Cheerios, doubling down on their commitment when some of the prejudice bubbles up because inherently that’s going to happen.
via Forbes - Entrepreneurs http://ift.tt/dTEDZf
January 31, 2018 at 12:19PM