In an ever-evolving industry where tone, voice, and aptitude are imperative to a brand, it is vital to understand one thing, CULTURE.
In an age where companies left and right are using poor imagery for their brand and hiring individuals to appropriate a culture to use on social media, it becomes tiresome to see this continued void for a desire for quality creative. This dismissal of culture also effects how we all perceive brands and the people hired to promote products and services to a diverse target audience.
As America becomes less of a melting pot and more of a Thanksgiving plate with sides that don’t touch, companies must hit the target on culture. With the rise of African creatives and lifestyle, it is inspiring to see individuals work with fortune 50 companies, create passion projects, and create an impact that is felt by the entire diaspora. There are many in this space, but few are hitting the mark as it pertains to culture. The primary concern of missing the mark is how it affects casual interaction with other cultures. It is 2020, and individuals still don’t understand why you speak English so well or why you didn’t come from a hut in the jungles of Africa. These are microaggressions and misconceptions based on medias portrayal of the continent. Even with the availability of the internet, it’s still challenging for people to understand.
While the complexity of getting it right is understood. We live in an age where billion-dollar companies spend the extra money on research and development, especially in creativity, when brands are spending millions on ads and innovative experiences that get children hooked to products and services from childhood.
The below examples are just that examples. All fault isn’t placed on the brands but just an example of what these images may portray.
Some might see these items as great opportunities and a sign that the culture is rising, but we should be careful about how the culture is portrayed in a very public setting.
I understand we all love Jollof, but let’s be serious, the culture is being reduced to rice and tomatoes. Where are Senegalese / Wolof people in this conversation? Why aren’t we talking about the migration of this dish and its variations? I fully understand the fun and games of all this, but it’s very similar to PHO, you probably called it “FO” for the longest until you get around some people and hopefully, realized its pronounced “FA”. Food takes you on a journey of culture. That little bit helps you better understand Vietnamese people just a little bit more. This during Black History Month, in my humble opinion, missed the mark. For the notoriety of the brand behind the event.
In the second image also during Black History Month, this miss, in my opinion, is the base level of the design. I get it black, red, yellow, green, throw up a black fist! Once ago, Africans, Washington D.C. has a very compelling story and history. The continent of Africa has unique design styles that are online, and you don’t even have to buy a plane ticket. I think, as a design team, you have to give more respect to this collaboration just for the impact the culture has in this region of the country. But with this selling out, doing the bare minimum continues to be seen as the standard, and no one does better.
At the core, this is about a little respect for not only African culture but all cultures. We know Coach K, we know Wayne Gretzky, hell we see the difference in Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese. You are not Sean, you are Seun! Have some respect for yourself, and when you have the energy, educate those that need it. Share stories of those diving deeper into the African in America story and the diaspora.