There’s Customizing a Message for Your Audience, and There’s Perpetuating Bias

So, Grant Cardone is in the news this week. You may know him as an author and a purveyor of financial and business advice. I’ve never absorbed any of his content. I’m leery of anyone who’s made a fortune telling other people how to make a fortune — especially when they target specific audiences, like Black people. Not because these vendors are all shiesters and have nothing to offer but because, well, I always wonder if they secretly think exactly what it appears Cardone thinks: That Black people are stupid and easily led.

Now, again I haven’t absorbed any of Cardone’s content. So, until the pundits started talking — we finally got around to discussing comments he made some weeks back — I hadn’t heard much about him. And I’m completely uninterested in anything he has to say now. But I had to hop on these innanets and point out that there is a marked difference between customizing a message for your audience and doing as he suggests, which is more or less admitting that he dumbs down information to suit our perceived lack of intellect.

There’s a lot of subtext here, and he didn’t explicitly insult us, but I believe in following my instincts. When Cardone said he uses street terms for his Black audience, a feeling of complete ick permeated my body. It was like experiencing full body nausea that this 60+ year old man thought it was quite in order to openly say that he prefers to keep things “tight and simple” when communicating with my people.

I mean, really? Did you just very casually intimate that:

  • Black people are incapable of understanding regular English?
  • Black people only understand if you use slang, or as Cardone says, use street terms?
  • Black people must be communicated with differently because our level of understanding is less than?

‘Cuz that’s what it sounded like, and I call bullshit.

I’m a professional marketer. I understand how unbelievably important it is to communicate with one’s audience effectively. You have to create the right messages, at the right time, in the right way, and deliver them on the platforms where your audience lives.

Simplicity is necessary for effective messaging today. The way people consume content, the sheer volume of content the average person absorbs in the run of a way, the number of marketing and advertising messages we are bombarded with, they make simplicity a necessity if you want your brand or your particular message to be remembered, shared, and acted upon.

That is a fact.

But Cardone has perverted that in a way that reeks of bias. It’s insulting, and frankly, it’s not true: You don’t have to use street terms to capture Black attention. We are perfectly capable of absorbing even complex financial information without you dumbing it down. This is not like Denzel saying, “All right, explain this to me like I’m a two year old” in the 1993 film Philadelphia. This is just disrespectful.

For me? And for many of my Black friends and peers, doing as he suggests is an excellent way to turn us completely off you, your message, and your brand — for good.

I’m Black. I know perfectly well that we speak differently amongst ourselves than we do in some more professional settings. It’s called coat switching. Some people say code switching. I think coat is more accurate. But that’s another blog. That lyrical patois you may hear when we are enjoying our own company is not indicative of ignorance of the “right” words to use.

The way Cardone expressed his marketing and messaging strategy to reach a Black audience smacks of snake oil, and the disrespect, as unintended as it may have been, was unacceptable. Please. Have more respect for your customers, sir.

Friends, I posit that you can easily — and likely much more cheaply — find financial advice elsewhere.

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