Respect on the Net – African Americans must aggressively forge opportunities – Publisher’s Page

Respect on the Net – African Americans must aggressively forge opportunities – Publisher’s Page – Editorial

Earl G. Graves

When Microsoft Corp. launched Windows 95 last August 24, it began a marketing and advertising blitz that inspired as many headlines as did the software itself. More than $600 million in combined marketing expenditures was invested in the global rollout by Microsoft, retailers and hardware and software companies in 1995. Yet, despite the fact that the industry took pains to reach consumers in 22 countries, no such effort was made to reach you, the African American consumer. If you don’t have a problem with that, you should.

Too often, African Americans are, to paraphrase Ralph Ellison, “the invisible consumers.” Companies see our money, but they often don’t see–or don’t want to see–us. So they stick to comfortable stereotypes of the black consumer market, using them to justify their neglect of that market even as they enjoy the nearly $400 billion African Americans spend each year.

This is an issue I’ve addressed often, in reference to a variety of industries, from financial services to business travel. Companies insist that African Americans are not a high priority in their marketing strategy because we don’t appreciate, can’t afford or “don’t fit the image” of their products–in this case, software and other computer products–and thus we’re not worthy of investing marketing dollars against. The fact that many African Americans are enthusiastic consumers of these products–or would be, if we were wooed by advertisers to the same degree as are other consumers–is at best taken for granted, and at worst, a source of embarrassment to the advertiser. While these companies fall all over themselves to market to other consumers, black consumers, black consumers are largely ignored.

We can–and must–change this. We must make a renewed commitment to black consumer activism, along with technological empowerment, a top priority of our economic advancement as the 21st century approaches. Information and communications technology companies such as Microsoft, Intel, Toshiba, Dell Computer and CompuServe are great places to start. Call, write and e-mail these companies about their outreach efforts–or lack thereof–to black consumers. How many African Americans professionals and executives do they employ, and at what levels of management? Do these companies offer vending opportunities to black-owned businesses? Challenge them to respect you as a consumer by reaching out to you where you are–through black magazines, newspapers and broadcast media. Use the Internet to create an awareness of the black consumer market in cyberspace. One idea is to organize e-mail campaigns to keep others informed of how companies are treating black consumers.

The issue of the magazine you now hold is graphic evidence of the rapidly increasing enthusiasm for the use that the companies that market technology recognize our value in the consumer marketplace. Our careers our businesses and the education of our children depend on it.

COPYRIGHT 1996 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group