The Advertising Apprentice

August 25, 2009

Three Websites that are Void of Sincerity and Being Genuine

Filed under: Advertising — adamlauzon @ 3:15 PM
Tags: , , ,

To lead off have a look at the following McNugget Love commercial that be found on the McDonald’s 365Black website or YouTube:

The inspiration for this week’s entry came courtesy of a friend from Sudbury. Thanks Allan! This afternoon he sent me the following links for three large companies that created websites that were intended to help make them more visible during Black History Month and beyond:

My opinion is that the three websites are all essentially saying the same thing from a corporate standpoint: “African American culture is important to us and it should be hailed and celebrated year round, not just in February.” But I think it’s also these three companies way of differentiating themselves from the marketing efforts of their competition with regards to Black History Month. It’s McDonald’s way of going above and beyond what Harvey’s or Burger King may have done. It’s Anheuser-Busch’s way of going above and beyond what MGD or Coors did throughout the month of February. And it’s Allstate’s way of standing ahead of insurance companies like Geico and State Farm.

From a marketing standpoint I can’t argue with the efforts to be “racially conscious” despite the fact that their motives are purely capitalistic in building a stronger connection with a segment they’ve deemed to be very important. They’ve deemed the African-American segment of their consumer base to be so important that each company has setup a unique website devoted to try and strengthen that connection with this particular subgroup. Let’s also not forget that McDonald’s, Anheuser-Busch, and Allstate are all very large companies, with revenues between $23 and $29 billion from 2008 according to Fortune, that would not have given the green-light for these websites, which are part of an IMC campaign, to go online without first conducting some sort of market research to make ensure that the target group was properly interpreting the message they wanted to get out.

Given the content of these websites and what they represent, I asked a friend who is Jamaican-Canadian to see how they resonate with the audience the websites were created for. Here’s his take on it:

The more I delved deeper into these websites, the more I was disgusted. There’s so much pandering going on it’s painful. For starters, on both the Anheuser-Busch and Allstate websites, there’s a selection of R&B and jazz music playing in the background. Why neither didn’t opt for a more neutral choice in music? Pandering to the lowest common denominator. Sure some Black people may be happy that the companies ‘get us’ but I’ll be damned if I take an insurance website seriously if they choose to play Al B.
I will commend the endowments/scholarships that award academic excellence as school attendance for Black students, especially those living in rougher neighbourhoods is usually lower than the attendance rates for other races.
What does concern me is that these companies’ motives are not solely for the betterment of the Black community and the next generation of Black youth will be so immersed in the brands that they become lifetime users of the product. The last thing Black people need as we’re already more prone to heart disease than other races is to be addicted to McDonalds. But I’m sure all those people will have Allstate life insurance.”

Based on this view it really seems as if these websites lacked a genuine quality about them that would lead people to take them more seriously and see these efforts as more sincere. These websites also seem to be exploiting stereotypes by sponsoring basketball, football, rap/MC, and gospel events.

The notion of marketing directly to racial groups is a function that could be advantageous, but very risky. If you say the wrong thing, mess up the lingo, or just come across as a big poser you can really alienate that segment of the market that you’ve regarded as important enough to target and focus a large campaign on.

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