10 Things Marketers can Learn from a Multicultural Muppet

There's been a big uproar over this cute little muppet singing about her curly coif. It was in a word; Illuminating. Not only did it hit home for many, it also pierced hearts. I've read more than one story of women crying when they saw it. Heck there was even one particular comedic, but manly, guy who blogged about tears coming to his eyes when he saw this. I waited for a reference to onions or something in his eye, it never came. He, like most, were really moved by such a public and innocent declaration of hair. But in the black community it means so much more. Hair and appearance in general is very connected to self worth and value. Mainly because it's been the sole reason we have been often times and still are ostracized. The creator of this song/video is the white Head-Writer for Sesame Street named Joey Mazzarino, and it took even him by surprise. The fact of the matter is; He did it out of love. Not because Sesame Street ran out of ideas or the end of the year budget had to be spent. It was because his adopted black daughter was beginning to feel the subtle negative squeeze of being a person of color in America & most of the world. This powerful message cleverly disguised as a singing muppet has so much to say and many could heed it's lessons. Here are a few things marketers could learn about the "MultiCultural" market from this little song & infectiously cute dance:

1. People of color in America are still dealing with issues of identity, self-love & race head-on and daily.
Race doesn't have to be a hurtful topic, it doesn't have to be uttered in hushed tones amongst like kinds. Sometimes it is hurtful, and sometimes helpful, but it's always present. Racial prejudices and biases are not the choice of people of color. The problem emanates from people with power. Power to craft advertising messages, power to allot funding and power to block resources. Some would like to imagine that race is a bygone issue until they have to navigate through it. It is daunting for us all. But most people of color try to make it easier for people who don't completely understand where the problem really comes from. So when marketers speak about investing in and moving towards multicultural models, they often miss the point. The identity and self-love problems are things people of color have to work out for themselves. The entirety of it may not be our fault, but it our charge. It is the seed of self-salvation.

2. Acceptance, total, unfiltered acceptance is still very important to these demographics. Not some frat-boy filtered & accepted version of it. But the genuine, I'm - OK - You're - OK version of acceptance. Too often ideas have to run through either the Caucasian appreciation mill or the black white-guy mill for approval. As in; "Let (Black) Lester check it out, if he's not bothered, we're good!" Hello, many times Lester either went to school with you or has a similar school experience as you. Or Lester has carved himself and made "himself" small enough to be accepted by you in a way that does not offend you or the office culture. Basically he cannot say what he feels because: One, he may not know what to feel (in your presence, he too wants acceptance). Two, Lester feels exactly like you (good for a boring office, not good for interesting new ideas).

3. Something made from the heart matters.This industry drones on and on about passion, that ever present power-point topic -- passion. Yet when it comes to addressing what will soon be the most populace segment of the US -- Multicultural audiences we phone it in. The passion of Salsa music, Hip Hop dance or Ethnic cooking for that matter, never shows up in marketing pointed towards these audiences.

4. In-depth Knowledge of subjects and revelations move the crowd.Did you notice how Mr. Mazzarino gave the little muppet almost 10 different hair-dos? It's because he lives with this situation. Black hairstyles are vast and intricate. He knows it intimately. It wasn't just put into the hands anyone. Joey knew the subject and for what he didn't know; he sought expert council.

5. Knowledge doesn't equal Truth.Knowing all about a thing doesn't mean you understand the truth of a thing. You can know a lot about a culture or even have studied it. But every nuance doesn't make it into a book or your favorite movie that details a culture. Also the proper usage and context of applications maybe not even consciously employed by the users. This why we see so many marketing gaffes, knowledge is amassed and utilized in an unknowing or callous fashion that creates situations that don't even come close to the truth.

6. Appreciation goes a long way.One of the biggest clarion calls of this video is it screams acceptance. Acceptance of a people and their total packaging. There are so many things people are made to feel bad about through advertising. The comedian Katt Williams says, "All advertising tells you that; you aint sh*t." This video literally caught afire from the heat of positive affirmation and appreciation. It really goes further than that and this brings me to my next point.

7. Everyone wants and deserves to be celebrated.What's wrong with a little good old fashion celebration? Not necessarily in the "up in the club" fashion always, but some of the deep insights that ultimately shine the light on human goodness. In opposition to the thuggish stamp usually reserved for people of color in the media.

8. The psychographic outpaces the demographic.Even as the demographics grow and morph and turn the normal into the next, the census data alone doesn't put a finger on the new America. What we see in the public joy over this muppety goodness is a growing embrace of all things natural and cultivated. African American women in particular are forging a new sense of self. It's not just a natural evolutionary occurrence. This is a very calculated movement of their own volition towards self acceptance and up-liftment. In spite of what the social economic statistics may say, there is an underground swell of self-empowerment that starts online, in the head, in the heart and in the mirror. They are responding to a new voice. That voice is their own.

9. Put a lil paint were it aint.Try exploring places, things and situations where there has been previous reticence due to hurt or sensitivity. The best insights lie in the deepest recesses. And the most original concepts are yet to be unearthed due to fear of the unknown. In other words: there are places we fear to tread because we don't explore what is said to be unthinkable, things like the absolute truth. Companies and marketers are afraid to repeat the same truths that people profess on the internet everyday. It's way past time to say the things we all know are true. Having faith in your truth is powerful.

10. Love your hair.Even if the world says, "it's nappy, course, tough, unmanageable & a damned sight." You should respond, "it's a helix, just like the very stuff of life, you're DNA, It's like lambs wool, strong, free-spirited, a beautiful sight to behold, everyone is looking. Whatever people are saying about your brand or your service embrace it. Extoll the good, shine a light on all that is positive. And most importantly, just like hair, if it's growing in the wrong shape or direction, by all means, comb through the kinks, cut it off, reshape it, restyle it, redesign it, do the big chop, nurture it and then wear it NATURAL!
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