Black History Month Interview with Brionna Simons

Taylor Gombar 2.22.2018

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.

‘Your Customer is All You Have’ – Coffee with Lynsay, a SME on Digital Marketing

By: Brionna Simons

Lynsay Russell is a Tennessee native with 10 years of digital marketing experience across retail, agency, and medical technology companies. She’s currently the Senior Manager of Global Marketing Operations at Medtronic in Boulder, Colorado and serves as a mentor at the Leeds School of Business. “SME” is a blog series about Subject Matter Experts in Colorado’s marketing industry.

When I requested a coffee meeting with Lynsay Russell, eight-year AMA veteran and co-director of executive relations, she scheduled me for a Friday night at Denver Central Market in RiNo. How fun! Lynsay and I spent over an hour talking all things digital marketing. Read below to learn the true meaning of marketing’s most relevant strategy plus what trends and tools you can expect in your digital marketing career.


Lynsay’s first boss after college encouraged all employees to invest one hour a week in researching industry trends, which led Lynsay to become a subject matter expert in 2008 on social media before it was social media.

“People were like ‘Well what is this term social media?’ I came to my boss and said I’d really like to look into this, I want this to be my special project. He’s like ‘Yeah, go for it.’ I dove head first. I read a book called Groundswell and I just couldn’t get enough of it.”

After a series of pitches to corporate executives about a digital marketing strategy to improve customer satisfaction, Lynsay earned her spot on Pilot Flying J’s marketing team where she served as an agent of change and built out customer-centric digital marketing practices for six years.


Lynsay regularly educates herself and others on trends in the digital marketing space. She describes digital as a constant dance between logic and impact and emphasizes the importance of understanding technology and its implications. For ongoing education, Lynsay and her team regularly attend national conferences. (She’s been to South by Southwest four times!)


“The biggest thing is just experience with digital marketing. Certifications are highly regarded, and they’re basically all free!”

Start with certifications from Google AdWords, Google Analytics, and HubSpot. Gain experience with running a blog, building emails and implementing a campaign, and managing a website and doing the SEO behind it.

One of the newer digital strategies that Lynsay implemented at her company, a global leader in medical technology, is Account Based Marketing (ABM). ABM is essentially highly-targeted advertisements for top accounts. ABM tools include Terminus and BrightFunnel. Other integrated tools Lynsay uses in her day-to-day tech stack include Oracle’s Eloqua, Adobe Experience Manager and Analytics, and Salesforce.


“One is technology and one is people. Marketing and advertising has to catch up to the human experience.”

In technology, Lynsay anticipates more interactive videos and virtual reality (VR) will surface in a bigger way for consumers. Regarding people, Lynsay believes that companies will learn to avoid having to deliver apologies about advertisements (think: Pepsi and Dove) if they begin to truly understand their customers. Lynsay passionately defends consumers for being smart and complex people and feels that a true marketer is, at her core, a people person.


“A lot of people say put your customer first. And I want to say: understand that your customer is all you have. Being customer centric isn’t enough. Authenticity is demanded. We don’t give a f*** about your brand unless you truly demonstrate that.”

In her spare time, Lynsay enjoys blogging on her website about “living whole, living free, and living powerfully.” She’s a certified yoga instructor and teaches on Saturdays at prAna Boulder. Her favorite Super Bowl ad was the Jeep Jurassic commercial and her favorite part of AMA is being able to connect with so many different people and “share the suffering.”


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