Black History Month Interview with Brionna Simons

By: Taylor Gombar 


Black History Month

This February we celebrate the impactful marketing contributions ignited by our local community of color. This vibrant celebration of cultivated talent is not solely recognized during Black History Month, but continually embraced within board rooms each day. We spoke to Brionna Simons, Director of Content for AMA Colorado, on the topic of diversity. As a woman of multiple nationalities, Simons shares her stance on racial segmentation, minority targeting, and campaign messaging.

Brionna Simons

Brionna Simons recently expanded her reach to content creation for AMA. Simons identifies as a Black woman. “My mix is Black, Mexican, and White. I was born in Asia, where I lived for seven years.” Stemming from military roots, Simons has gained a thorough understanding of race across borders (Las Vegas, Oklahoma, California, Virginia, Taiwan, Japan, and Colorado). Recently, Simons has deepened her education through the University of Denver’s Masters of Marketing program. Her interests in sustainability and hospitality are supported with six years of experience in luxury hotels and athletic clubs. Simons seeks to grow in a sustainable company spearheading integrated marketing campaigns.

What responsibilities do Black Marketers play during Black History Month?

Simons believes that all members of the Black community, especially teachers and parents, have a role in educating the next generation about Black pioneers across all industries. Simons shared the importance of, Former First Lady, Michelle Obama’s portrait now hung in the National Portrait Gallery. She also directed us to her news sources, like Her Agenda, that mold a picture of today’s working professional overcoming adversity.

Share with us your thoughts on market segmentation and racial targeting in marketing.

Based on her experience in the field, Simons responded, “I am choosing to remain indifferent at this point.” She shares how racial profiling can be a form of “professional stereotyping.” Yet, segmentation helps to match customer needs with market offerings. It also creates customizable messaging that resonates, rather than developing mass communication releases.

Marketers cannot overlook the variables we are using to develop our segmented clusters (race, age, gender, lifestyle, etc.). Simons shares, “It is a little silly to see entire articles about market segmentation based on race. Every African American family is not identical. There are several varying factors.”

Marketers may wish to consider why we select a certain variable, how we use those variables, and the cost/benefit of developing such clusters.

One warning Simons offered to marketers is the tendency to drive paid media that is grounded in racial segmentation. Simons states, “Consider toothpaste — commodities do not need to be tailored based on race. It is toothpaste.” As marketers, we are only exercising short-sided segmentation for commodities that may not benefit from defined minority targets.

Share with us any adverse viewpoints you have encountered with customer personas.

Simons’ shared with us an example of the Gerber Baby Food Label taught in her graduate coursework. The Gerber story was intended to demonstrate the importance of tailored packaging to international markets. “Gerber tried to penetrate a country in Africa. My lecturer claimed that Gerber failed because ‘they’ could not read. The errors in this example were that the campaign assumed Africa was one population, when there are over 50 countries in Africa. The campaign also suggested 100 percent of Africans are illiterate,” Simons said. According to the World Bank, literacy rate for men ages 15 to 24 is 99 percent in South Africa (World Bank 2015). Simons explains, “Marketing is about metrics as much as it is about creative. Marketers have to know their percentages and statistics.”

As we listen to what-not-to-do stories in marketing we must remain objective. Let us not overlook when marketers make broad statements about one variable, such as— country of origin or literacy rates, it may influence other variables like race.

Marketers hear a lot about the marketing mix (Product, Place, Price, and Promotion). What variable is most important to racial differences?

“I value communication the most. Marketers can have an excellent product or service, but if it is not communicated properly, it will not succeed,” Simons shares. We discussed how promotion is often misaligned to demographic identifiers. There is value within communicating a customized message to an audience. “Your words carry weight,” said Simons. However, let the customer tell their story. Marketers may seek to integrate interviews into their promotions to allow others to speak for themselves. Marketers could also curate in-the-field content.

Simons concluded our interview by stating, “You do not know what you do not know.” It was suggested to understand that campaign brainstorming develops from various perspectives. And perspectives of difference originate from diversity at the board room table.

Denver Trailblazers

Denver’s community is rich with African American trailblazers who courageously redefine equal access/opportunities within their companies. Let us continue to acknowledge the extended community of marketing leaders shaping Denver.

CO AMA Blog | TEDx

TED Talk Wrap-Up: What I Learned from an Activist and Former Skinhead

By Brionna Simons

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a nonprofit global community devoted to spreading ideas. A Tedx event is a local level conference showcasing live speakers whom each present a TED Talk, which is a short and powerful talk that sparks deep conversations and connections.

On November 11th, thousands gathered in downtown Denver to attend the TEDxMileHigh: Wonder Conference. Speakers were revealed the morning of the event and included experts from several disciplines and cultures, such as a marijuana policy influencer, an atmospheric scientist, and a spoken word artist. Each of the fifteen TED Talks delivered that day centered around the theme: “What do you wonder?” As an audience, we laughed, cried, and shouted in agreeance with the speakers. Nearly everyone received a standing ovation.

The afternoon session of the event focused on women’s empowerment and featured all female speakers. A special highlight was the emcee’s interview with Tamika D. Mallory, a social justice advocate known for her role as co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington. Mallory’s work inspired over five million to come together worldwide for women’s equality on January 21, 2017, including over 100,000 in Denver’s own Civic Center Park. Mallory’s ultimate advice was to follow women, especially women of color because “we know how to draw the map and drive the car.” She also challenged attendees to stand up for people that they typically do not, because in the fight for social justice, “… our pain [and liberation] is together.”

Another highlight was the final speaker Christian Picciolini, an award-winning peace advocate and former skinhead. Picciolini described his previous lifestyle as a white supremacy group leader and admitted that the hate music he produced decades ago inspired the mass church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. Several of us in the audience were stunned. Picciolini concluded by encouraging audience members to treat people we dislike with compassion because they least expect it. His theory is that extremists have “potholes,” or parts of their life journeys that lack demonstrations of kindness and love. Since reforming, Picciolini has helped over 200 violent extremist leaders disengage.

Although Mallory and Picciolini have different life experiences, their advice for improving the world is similar: be kind to people unlike you and un-liked by you. This made me wonder… can the ideas from a Black female championing a new age civil rights movement and a former neo-Nazi leading an anti-hate campaign remain separate campaigns or should they be combined? As marketers, what tactic do we use to expand a single idea?

A visit to Mallory and Picciolini’s websites and social media profiles illustrate their unique platforms and audiences. Mallory serves as a change agent for multiple social justice issues in the Black community, while Picciolini advocates peaceful relationships as a strategy to end hate and #makegoodhappen. Some marketers feel that an undifferentiated marketing strategy, which is mass communicating a single idea to a perceived homogenous population, to be the best solution. However, the mission of TED, much like the goal of marketing professionals, is to spread powerful ideas that change attitudes and lives. I believe that the ideas of TED Speakers like Mallory and Picciolini are meant to remain independent because that’s when they are most compelling, most impactful, and make us wonder.