Why is this interesting? - The Black Creativity Edition

On marketing, equity, and Black culture

Chuck Welch (CW) runs the brand strategy consultancy Rupture. He is a creative strategist and problem solver. He has 20+ years of experience working across music (Def Jam), fashion, entertainment, and a variety of the best agencies. He’s developed strategic business solutions for the likes of HBO, Coca-Cola , Nike, Courvoisier, Pixar, Target, Budweiser, Samsung, LVMH, and PepsiCo.

Chuck here. A lot of ink has been spilled in the last couple of weeks about Black Lives Matter. As nerves were fraught from COVID, the accusations of Amy Cooper to the killing of Ahmaud Abery, Breona Taylor, and George Floyd, was the kindling that sparked what has become the broadest protest movement in US history. This movement is not just a fight against police brutality, but rather a demand for equality for Black people at every rung of society. 

While much of the focus of the protests have been on the police and the laws that enable them, the movement extends far beyond government into the businesses we buy from and work for on a day-to-day basis. In an ironic twist, as COVID knocked us down, racism has revived many of us. Black people are the center of global attention at this very moment. This is what it must feel like to be a blond-haired blue-eyed woman. As corporations trip over themselves to court us, and try to one-up each other, Black pain is the new campaign.

That, of course, isn’t anything new. While Black culture and creativity are, pound for pound, the largest drivers of value and cool for many of the world’s biggest brands and corporations, Black people make up a shockingly small percentage of staff and external creative partners. Seeing so many agencies and brands rush out to make their statements, struck me and many fellow Black executives and entrepreneurs as disingenuous and laughable. 

Why is this interesting? 

I’ve spent 20 years as a ”white whisperer” in advertising, working on behalf of brands to help them connect with young people and youth audiences. A big part of that has been helping agencies and corporate clients to understand the Black condition. I’ve educated them on issues of race and how they show up in the world through attitudes, identity, motivations, trends, and passion points as we developed campaigns and built brands. They’d usually listen to what they felt was the “cool expressions of the culture” (the emergent trends and creativity—slang, dance, music, art, fashion, etc.), but disregard or actively avoid the underlying socio-economic conditions from which they emerged. These realities are now being brought to the surface and boiling over in the streets and inside of their companies.

Black culture lines the coffers of the agency world and many brands, but you’ll hardly find us within their walls. I’ve spent a career presenting in the boardroom in very white agencies and brands in New York City mind you. Usually, I was the only Black person. Very few of us, myself included have had seats in those same boardrooms where power resides.

Many of us have a feeling that it will all disappear shortly and go back to “business as usual.” Having spoken to a handful of CEO’s over the last couple weeks, you get the suspicion that they are being forced to say something by the weight of this movement, but many would rather not be involved. The smart ones even, though they may be personally uncomfortable addressing these issues, are wise enough to understand that they are fighting for their futures. They need talent inside and outside their companies to help understand these issues and how to address them. For those CEO’s and white executives, I would tell them that by holding back (whether purposefully or not) Black employees, you are fighting against your own best interests. Remove the overt and covert barriers, ensure those Black employees have equal access, opportunity, and pay, and watch your people and organization thrive. 

You have the power to change things. Don’t talk shit. Do shit. (CW)

Resources of the Day:

In the name of doing, here’s a list of Black-led strategy, marketing, and creative resources you can tap into for this moment and any moment. (CW)

Strategy Consultancies:

Agencies/Freelance Creative Talent:

Film/Production/Content:

Branding & Design:

Photography:

Programs for entry-level Black Talent in advertising:

Diverse Talent Recruitment:

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Chuck (CW)

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