The "Secret Code" of Discrimination : BAME : Racism and Nigga

Image: collage/pinterest/H&M/Wycon

Customer profiling has been a tool marketer have had in their toolkits for many years. Often times the best and most innovative products have reaped in gains and profits when they have been able to segment their customers' diversity. I'm not a big fan of the politicized definition of customer segmentation or profiling, but despite the merits, it has its obvious downside. Microtargeting is (also called micro-targeting or micro-niche targeting) is a marketing strategy that uses consumer data and demographics to identify the interests of specific individuals or very small groups of like-minded individuals and influence their thoughts or actions. I wish the application of this definition was just as simple. It gets more complex when micro-targeting is used extensively to achieve the opposite i.e., it can be used as a tool for exclusion than inclusion. 

With the proliferating A.I. and smart algorithmic tools, with the sophistication of online analytics available to marketers means that it is possible for them to understand their customers and profile them like never before often encouraging discrimination like including a certain demographic cohort in their feeds and making their feeds invisible to a certain few! This is largely due to the explicit bias they have that reflects not only in their decision-making process but also their apparent reach outs should they intend to include a diverse segment of customers. Many brands are still reveling in their privileged ignorance despite the visible thrust and a standout theme of bringing in racial diversity in messaging to attract diverse customers.

Case in the point, to the most recent: 

Here, I'm talking about the evolution of profiling in the digital realms but rewind a bit and we realize that this has been an eternal modus operandi and profiling has been the de facto secret code of discrimination even in the physical domain. Do recall the infamous Oprah Winfrey incident when a sales assistant in the luxury Swiss boutique, Trois Pommes, refused to show her a luxury handbag because it was 'too expensive'. It created a furor! In my most recent memory, is another incident that rocked the inclusion boat: A former Versace employee sued the company for unfair business practices claiming that the luxury fashion label used a secret "code" to alert employees when a black customer entered the store.

I did an article on this that got scrapped because it was deemed too sensational and stirring up a hornets' nest. It had insights from research I did for a high-street brand in 2014, the outcome of which cannot be fully published, In the survey, I asked customers if they ever had a hair-flicking, lip-biting moment when they were ignominiously ignored, unceremoniously treated by the sales staff while being busy servicing other premium customers?  No, this wasn’t a discriminating survey. I surveyed everyone regardless of the differences. People surveyed noticed some sort of discrimination on perceived differences based on race, skin color, obesity, sexual orientation, disability, and all forms of negative psychology that can possibly be applied to a diverse customer. 

Multicultural understanding is what drives my business, Diverse Customer. My role is to put in place and maintain a wide range of initiatives and identify priorities for the brands and organizations I work with. And, working around profiling and segmentation is a major part of it. There are two main components of my role:

1. Offer an invaluable influencer and influence marketing platform for brands to reach out to and engage with a diverse customer base by identifying, orienting and connecting brand to individuals, platforms, and foundations who have influence over a demographic segment. I engage social influencers who can help in leveraging an organization’s Diversity, CSR and Social Impact undertakings and can increase brand recognition and amplify it as a result of diverse customers leaning on these allies' and role models' voice, authenticity and affinity elements as they speak in the tone and support the causes consumers are most passionate about. 

2. I act as a Brand/Product Strategist and guide organizations seeking to position their messaging strategies in multiple new markets for various products, or services.

Facilitating these two components is hugely beneficial to my clients as it reflects the brand's intention to embed diversity and inclusion into their core values ensuring that every decision taken within the organization is well informed and guided.

It is also to ensure that my clients do not embark on a wildly ambitious project. 
One of the largest segment of customers I work with is the BAME. It is very important to stress to the BAME customers that my clients are not exploiting black culture purely for financial benefit. This is because many individuals in this demographic feel as if society, big brands, and celebrities cut and commercialize pieces of black culture for white consumption. Many times, it appears as if black culture is appreciated more than the individuals. Although diversity leads to innovation, creativity, and better products and marketing it is important to avoid cultural appropriation.

In the book, Reni Eddo-Lodge expands on the concept of white privilege: “When I talk about white privilege, I don’t mean that white people have it easy, that they’ve never struggled, or that they’ve never lived in poverty. But white privilege is the fact that if you’re white, your race will almost certainly positively impact your life’s trajectory. And you probably won’t even notice it” (p.87).

When marketers think about - whom they're marketing to, who is their target customer - they typically have very distinct demographics in mind. Marketing can be tricky, a masterpiece of unintentional irony even once brands have worked out their key target customer, they miss the mark in requiring to consider the diversity of that group...and, that becomes the biggest single most factor determining a business' success in assessing its ability to market to a wide range of demographics. 

- Amit Anand