In 2020, because of the social justice protests and the desire by many people to offer support to the Black community, many Black-owned businesses and brands saw upticks in sales and attention over the summer. This sales spike also commonly happens during Black History Month, a trend that many Black owners and creators would like to see happen all year round. “It needs to become less of a trend and more of a movement to where people are constantly supporting and bridging that wealth gap,” said Larry Morrow, owner of Morrow’s restaurant in New Orleans. As brands everywhere embrace digital solutions during uncertain times, Black-owned businesses have created optimized websites and digital innovations to grow their brand footprint, create awareness and drive sales.
Pat McGrath: Artistry + Social Media
Once called “the most influential makeup artist in the world” by Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Pat McGrath is beauty royalty. With the slowdown of brick-and-mortar sales during 2020, the Pat McGrath brand turned to its eponymous CEO and founder for social media content that would generate excitement and keep consumers connected to the popular makeup brand. “We need to have meaningful connections with consumers now more than ever,” said Lauren McGovern, the company’s head of social media. “Since we started working from home, we now go live on Instagram once a week [with McGrath herself] to provide positivity and entertainment as a distraction from everything negative happening in the world.” McGrath has been very savvy in how she uses her Instagram account, which, despite being told people want to hear the intimate details of her life, she prefers to use as an inspiration board and promotional tool for the product “drops” that often sell out in less than a minute. With 3.4 million followers, the approach seems to be working. Pat McGrath Labs, the makeup brand’s ecommerce platform, offers promotions, exclusive VIP deals and access to the latest limited edition items.
Red Bay Coffee: Pivoting To Podcasts + Ecommerce
At the beginning of the pandemic, Red Bay Coffee had five Bay Area cafes in Oakland CA, and booming “corporate sales,” much of which had to shut down during COVID-19. Owner Keba Konte had to make tough decisions and lean into digital solutions that generated revenue and kept the Red Bay Coffee brand top of mind for consumers. The robust website for Red Bay Coffee offers a variety of different ways to connect with consumers, including a podcast, Coffee Dojo, hosted by Konte and featuring conversations with thought leaders and creatives from around the world. Podcasts have taken on a new life during the pandemic, as people look to them for content relevant to ongoing social issues and crises. Lovers of Red Bay Coffee can also subscribe to receive regular shipments of their favorite brew, and Red Bay has an ecommerce platform where shoppers can get Red Bay Coffee swag and products. The coffee brand offers Shop Pay for seamless buying options.
Pyer Moss: Exclusivity + Partnerships
Fashion brand Pyer Moss was founded in 2013 by Kerby Jean-Raymond, and is as much a social and artistic experiment as a fashion brand. According to the brand website, “Pyer Moss continues to redefine itself every season with collections and runways that combine storytelling, activism, debate, theatre and social commentary; all while using collaboration with artists and brands as a medium to further the dialogue around seasonal themes.” Pyer Moss creates exclusive items, generating excitement across social media and the brand’s ecommerce platform, where stories, photo series and videos accompany the fashion collections. The brand’s ongoing partnership with Reebok, promoted across both brands has brought Pyer Moss into the mainstream — as did Jean-Raymond’s recent design of a coat for Vice President Harris, worn at the COVID-19 memorial ceremony the night before the inauguration. Additionally, Pyer Moss’ “Exist to Resist” initiative is a platform designed to highlight various organizations working for social justice. Each charitable organization works with Pyer Moss on an exclusive fashion collection, with all or a portion of proceeds donated back to the organizations.
Blaylock Van, LLC: Experience + Diversity
Blaylock Van, LLC is the “longest continuously operating Black-owned investment banking firm in the country,” which has found itself in the position to help investors diversify their holdings, while also nurturing Black-owned businesses through the hard times brought by pandemic shutdowns and economic unrest. “More and more clients are reaching out in need of thoughtful solutions for their businesses and funds going forward. Fortunately, we are well-positioned to help firms and governments affected by the pandemic as well as those seeking to solidify their inclusion of African-American diversity firms,” said Eric Standifer, CEO and president of Blaylock Van. “We also have a team of professionals with experience in advising CDFIs and MDIs, helping these institutions leverage their capital in efficient ways to address affordable housing programs and lending to communities of color.” Blaylock Van services include public finance, corporate banking, debt and equity, sales and trading and structured finance, and, as explained on their website, works with both public and private market transactions and multi-billion-dollar mergers. The financial services brand leverages the reputation of its experienced brokers and managers to explain the brand mission, history and service, and create thought leadership content, including videos and blogs, on the Blaylock Van website.
The digital strategies and optimizations businesses use to grow brand awareness and consumer excitement – and drive sales – should include fun, informative and accessible websites, engaging social media strategies and an awareness of consumer intent, needs and preferences. By creating trusted relationships, brands are more likely to encourage repeat business and positive word of mouth.
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