February is Black History Month. What are you doing to celebrate it? Think about this for a moment.  Do you think people aren’t quick to detect cynicism, seeing how companies are piggybacking on Black History Month?

“It has turned into a mundane, meaningless and commercialized farce,” according to this commentary by Huffington Post blogger Akilah Bolden-Monifa. She concludes:

Instead of a month of perfunctory gestures, we need yearlong efforts of recognizing African Americans who made – and continue to make – a contribution.

Many people hold concerns about black history being delegated to a single month.  Morgan Freeman, a critic of Black History Month, said “I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history.”

But this doesn’t mean to take your African American customers for granted. It’s just important that you do it from an African American perspective. When a corporation that is not noted for ethnic diversity runs a Black History Month ad,  it’s often viewed with skepticism. Perfunctory treatment is worse than no acknowledgement at all. An example was an ad run by a large regional bank I worked with that depicted an African American teacher in front of a blank board. Some of the scathing reactions I heard were  “Really, you needn’t have bothered!” and “That must have taken a lot of thought. It really is offensive to view the holiday from a self-serving and self-referential perspective that does not begin to deal with the nuances of meaning and relevance to the intended audience. 

Meanwhile the competition was running an ad was associating the opening of an account with them with jumping the broom.

The broom jumping ceremony is a poignant reminder of a time when African American wedding vows were not legally sanctioned, and  the legitimacy of marriage was sought by jumping over the broom into the bonds of marriage. It’s an acknowledgement of  connection with a proud heritage, legitimacy,dignity and the strength of family bonds.  In a word, it’s a powerful message of respect and a clear indicator that “They get me. They are me.”

Snap Marketing Principle of Cultural Perspective

People like to do business with people like themselves.