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Multicultural Retail 360 to Explore Marketing to African-Americans


In West Africa, a "griot" is a traveling story teller who recites oral history in the traditional manner. In the media world, Griot’s Roll Film Production & Services Inc. brings products and services to life for women of color through conversations on social media, blogs and videos. Griot's CEO Derrick M. Guest will outline this strategy at Stagnito Business Information's Multicultural Retail 360 conference in August.

Here is how Griot’s concept works: Imagine a dull item like a refrigerator. In a TV or print ad, it's a big box with a bunch of shelves and cubbies. But through digital media conversation, hordes of cocktail recipes involving its multi-function ice dispenser may be posted. With a nod toward families, there may also be discussions about its economical ice cream maker and kids’ birthday parties. Its wide array of colors and optional accessories could be another focus.

“We’d get people involved who have used it saying how they’ve used it,” said Guest, whose company creates, manages and tracks digital content. “You get more excitement here than in a 30-second commercial. It makes something unexciting exciting.”

The products and services New York-based Griot promotes are often aimed at the general market. But African Americans’ and Hispanics’ high indexing in social media, blogs and videos make these mediums an efficient way to reach them—particularly younger generations.

“Hispanics and African Americans are the biggest users of things like online video,” said Guest. “They’re also big on Facebook. So you’re continually reaching a niche audience with whom you can connect over and over.”

Digital media is particularly popular among women of color, who are often the purchasing decision makers. This is also true of the Generation X and Y age brackets. “It definitely has to be used with an audience who is comfortable being online and using technology,” said Guest. “Nine times out of 10, older people wouldn’t seek us out.”

Refrigerators are not the only things that can be portrayed in a different light via digital content. Dove staged a video campaign that told women they were beautiful “just the way they are” through the eyes of both people they knew and strangers. “They weren’t saying `You’re too fat’ or `Your hair is too short,’ which is what a lot of beauty campaigns do,” said Guest. “Rather, Dove creates a point of view.” He noted that the Dove video would be too long for TV.

In addition to being able to reach niche audiences, Griot’s concept is a good way to promote niche products and companies. TV, in contrast, is too broad. One of Griot’s clients, for example, was the New York City chapter of the National Sales Networking Group, an organization for professional salespeople. Online discussions included achieving goals, starting a career, how to dress for an interview and other topics relevant to sales. Sponsors like State Farm and Xerox conducted webinars on the site.

Another entity, the New York City Housing Authority (public housing), needed to raise money for its arts program. Griot's created a video about art that included a talent show. “It was sent to donors,” said Guest. “The message was, `Here’s what we’ve been doing and we need your money.’”

Regardless of category, Guest said more and more companies are using targeted digital strategies. “It gives people a different perspective,” he added.

Stagnito Business Information's Multicultural Retail 360 conference will take place in Anaheim, Calif., from Aug. 12-14. See for more information.

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