The Timelessness of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dreams and Message

Filed Under: Multicultural


Jorge Martínez-Bonilla

Senior Vice President, CultureBeat

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day is upon us one more time, and I challenge you to ask yourself: “Have I done anything to learn more about him and his vision, or to forward the movement towards a more equitable US?” 

A few years ago, we wrote this blog about the remembrance of MLK and what it should signify for the marketing and insights communities.  Today, we are reminded of the timelessness of Dr. King’s dreams and message. Today, even more than when we first wrote that blog, there should be more urgency in our society and in our marketing tribes to further his mission: because we are not there yet! 

If we stop at observing this holiday as a day off, or if we simply relegate it to a stamp in the calendar, then we will have failed. We will have failed Dr. King as well our society. We will have failed our children and shortchanged their prosperity. We will have failed the historically marginalized communities in our nation and the memories of so many killed at the hands of ignorance and social and racial apathy and indifference. We will have failed those who day in and day out live through the challenges of racial injustice in seemingly subtle ways at work, on the street, at stores, or anywhere they go. We will have failed the very promise we make to ourselves and to our nation in the Pledge of Allegiance: One Nation…Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice FOR ALL.

Pfff… I’m in marketing!

What does this have to do with consumer insights and marketing might you ask? Why should my company or its brands care about this? We argue that it can affect the very survival of your brand! Because our nation is more intersectional, multiracial, multicultural, and in need of healing than it has ever been, people look to companies and brands to reflect those realities and needs. 

At CultureBeat, the last couple of years have been really busy. For consumers from marginalized communities, the bare minimum will no longer do. The cultural and racial reckoning has led to a lot of self-reflection and to taking a closer look at our nation’s history.  From research projects to training   programs on multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion for marketing teams, we have been fortunate to work with all kinds of companies at various stages of their journeys. The central things and common thread among all of them can be summarized in four basic points:

  • Companies and brands want to become genuine about diversity and inclusion
  • They realize what they know and do is insufficient or inaccurate
  • They understand that it is a long journey, but one that can’t be started without taking a first step
  • They sooner or later realize that change must be part of their core strategies, beyond marketing

Now what?

From Dr. King to marketing… big leap, right? Maybe, but it is not impossible, and it makes a lot of sense. Here’s what we suggest you can do and why

  • Learn more about Dr. King. Not just his picture, not just his speeches, but the whys behind his movement. A lot of things may seem better now than in his time, but a deep look into your organization and society in general will reveal his dream is still very much a dream. Not an impossible one. 
  • Educate yourself and your marketing teams on cultural, social, and racial issues plaguing your consumers today.  What we hear from just about every client is that some people are more knowledgeable than others in their organizations, but many others have not had the opportunity or faced the need to learn about these issues. This variance in knowledge and understanding seems to be one of the greatest challenges for marketing teams to walk in lockstep towards more powerful and meaningful brand and product strategies. There is no shortage of resources on the topics of multiculturalism, diversity, inclusion, etc., from books to podcasts; it’s all accessible within a few clicks. However, we also encourage you and your brands’ teams to take it a step further. Seek to gain understanding around culturally relevant topics within your category or expertise. By doing so, you will naturally build authentic connections with your consumers and can provide more effective actionability behind these important challenges. You can start with some of our own C+R Insights through many blogs and free webinars. 
  • Embrace the simple reality that we are better together, because of and despite our differences. I recently read a sign as I drove my kids to school. It said, “Everyone does better, when everyone does better.” It stuck. It’s been in my mind now for a few weeks, obsessively. I haven’t been able to figure out who it is first credited to (there are a few versions), but what I have concluded that its simplicity is pure genius, and it is also what Dr. King fought for. If you are positioning your brand or trying to sell your products, wouldn’t you want all potential customers to have the money to afford it? Wouldn’t you want all of them to feel comfortable shopping at the store where your products are sold without concern for whether they’ll be treated with dignity? Wouldn’t you want that buyer to tell others in their circle (whether they have a disability, or they’re Black, Asian, Native American, Hispanic, White, or part of the LGBTQ+ community) about how great your product is? It should be done, because Everyone does better, when Everyone does better. It’s not about trading one cultural representation for another. It’s about inviting more cultural experiences to the table!
  • Elevate from within. If your organization is not very diverse, look for outside help to bring in an outside perspective and help you along your journey into multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion. And… make it a point to transform it into a more diverse organization. If your company is diverse, take the next step in your journey; and give those different voices a chance to inform your strategies!  
  • Don’t stop. This is a marathon, not a sprint. This is a commitment, not a one-off. It will take effort, it will take time, there may be some missteps, but I promise you, it will be well worth it if you don’t stop. 

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