Controlling it All: Barbara Britton Talks About Multicultural Marketing and What It Means to Be in Business for Yourself

Barbara Britton, former vice president and associate publisher of sales for Essence magazine, has prepared for 25 years for the ultimate role of her life. Her job title will now include entrepreneur, as she has recently launched Britton Sales and Marketing, a New York-based firm specializing in multicultural marketing.

“During my experience at Essence, one of the things that we consistently saw as we spoke to corporations was a lack of understanding of what makes the African-American market respond,” says Britton. “I also noticed that these corporations were challenged in resources and manpower.”

Britton’s goal is to provide marketing services to corporations looking to connect with the African-American or multicultural consumer. Her firm will supply organizations with creative strategies for measuring return on investment and “cultural cues” that make this market responsive.

Though we may participate in the mainstream market, there is a difference between looking in from the outside rather than being a part of it, says Britton. “We have found that you get the best return on your marketing dollars when you can embrace the entire cultural reality of minority consumers.”

What makes multicultural marketing effective? Britton suggests that it must acknowledge and respect cultural cues—whether they are language or situational elements such as the “church experience” or “extended family experience.” Mishaps in multicultural marketing, notes Britton, include an advertisement for an automotive manufacturer featuring a man with a gold tooth in an attempt to target minority audiences. She points out that these missteps are indicative of marketers who are not in touch with the African-American community and therefore lack sensitivity.

Britton finds herself faced with the ongoing challenge of monitoring new media landscape. The difficulty lies in keeping up with not only what’s there, but also things to come, she says.  However, she credits her vast media and sales experience in preparing her for the potential pitfalls and challenges of entrepreneurship.

Being in sales, she reveals, is like “running your own little candy shop”—so your accounts are like having your own business—essentially doing what entrepreneurs do. The greatest reward of having your own firm, she says, is working on your own time and “having control of it all.”

“I hope I can be an example for others to be involved in this area of advertising” adds Britton. I hope to be a role model for the art of persuasion!”

Appeared in the Advertising Women of New York Newsletter download pdf

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