Scene: Pizza joint with Jordan and Rock Man discussing ideas to help get blacks off the bottom rung of the economic ladder. Initial episode for this section begins #67 “Why Do Blacks Remain at the Bottom of the Economic Ladder?”

Rock Man: “Jordan, you’ve got me thinking. By the way, the pizza was great. Who owns this place anyway?”
Jordan: “Turns out owners are part of the family that started Buddy’s Pizza in Detroit many years ago. A colleague from my Detroit days told me about the place. Great pizza, huh?”
Rock Man: “Maybe the best I’ve ever had.”
Jordan: “Back to the task at hand. I’ve got you thinking about what?”
010114_1917_19RockManCo1.png Rock Man: “Asking me to describe the ideal black community could be the foundation for a marketing campaign.”
Jordan: “Now you are on to something.”
Rock Man: “What we are talking about doing is rebranding the black community.”
Jordan: “This might sound a bit crass but rebranding the black community is like Nike building a brand of shoes around Michael Jordan or…”
Rock Man: “I thought we were shying away from sports figures?”
Jordan: “You’re right. Then building a brand of clothing – Polo, for example. Or soda – Coke. Or Yogurt. Pick a product and there is a certain image that comes to mind when you mention the brand name. And we can use your words to describe the ideal black community. But we need to make the words describe how the brand feels.”
Rock Man: “What do you call that essence statement?”
Jordan: “Positioning statement.”
Rock Man: “That’s it. Positioning statement. But the brand has to have a product.”
Jordan: “It does have a product…the black community.”
Rock Man: “So you’re thinking of rebranding the entire black community?”
Jordan: “Changing the perception of the black community. Obviously not everyone will fit the mold but the goals is to change the overall perception of the community.”
Rock Man: “You think that’s realistic?”
Jordan: “Your question is an excellent checkpoint. And one we will use at the end of this exercise. But let me ask you, when I say…OK, Jewish community, what words or phrases come to mind?”
Rock Man: “More educated, professionals – lots of doctors, lawyers, college professors. Lots of merchants – doctor-clipart-illustration-31325Saks, Bergdorf-Goodman, Bloomingdales. And financial people – Solomon Brothers.”
Jordan: “Clearly, not every Jew falls in one of those categories. But I think that is a fair description of the perception of the Jewish community in general.”
Rock Man: “So we are trying to build a brand for the black community that fits some type of positioning statement, correct?”
Jordan: “One thing to be clear about – a substantial portion…don’t ask me what the exact number is…but a substantial percentage of blacks will need to fit the mold or the perception will never take hold. Just making a claim that the black community is like ‘X,’ ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ won’t make people change their perception.”
Rock Man: “Let’s go back and try to translate my general description into a positioning statement.”
Jordan: “Alright but just don’t get to anal right now about having a perfect positioning statement. The statements evolve over time.”
Rock Man: “Speaking of time, how long is this rebranding session going to take?”
Jordan: “Session? You mean sessions. Probably 4-5, maybe more before we complete the initial phase.”
Rock Man: “You serious? That long for the initial phase?”
elephant-clip-art Jordan: “Rock Man, the process of rebranding is like eating an elephant. There’s a lot there and you can only eat one bite at a time.”
Rock Man: “Before we get too far into this, do you think we might be covering old ground? I mean, didn’t Martin Luther King cover this issue 50-60 years ago. What’s going to make a program we come up with different?”
Jordan: “Good question. I’ve thought about the question a lot. My take is this. Dr. King had a vision about equality. And ideally that will be the result of our efforts.”
Rock Man: “So what’s different?”
Jordan: “Scholars might disagree but I think one of the reasons why MLK’s vision did not come true is blacks did not have a positioning statement.”
Rock Man: “Explain more, please.”
Jordan: “Without a positioning statement, blacks did not know what to become. There were no guideposts or guidelines. Blacks were just supposed to be equal but no real map on how to get there.”
Rock Man: “Over the years you’ve talked about how a clear, concise positioning statement helped guide a lot of activities at Buick. If I remember correctly, the positioning statement was ‘Buick is a premium American motorcar that is substantial, distinctive, powerful and mature.’”
Buick Jordan: “Very good. And when Buick followed that positioning decisions were much easier and Buick gained market share.”
Rock Man: “Then what happened? Buick had a really rough period in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. It’s coming back now but it was rocky road for a number of years.”
Jordan: “My view? Most of the problem had nothing to do with the positioning statement. It was all in the execution.”
Rock Man: “Whadda mean?”
Michigan Jordan: “Product tastes evolve over time. I had done a lot of research at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. The results indicated product design that appeals to one generation will not necessarily appeal to the next generation. Just look at clothing styles for certain age groups. They seem to cycle over time.”
Rock Man: “What else?”
Jordan: “The fundamental positioning of the product can remain the same but how it’s designed needs to change. The research suggested Buick could keep all key attributes but needed to update the design to appeal to a younger generation.”
Rock Man: “So what happened?”
Jordan: “I lost the argument. My boss, who was not that much older, thought younger buyers would ‘adopt’ the same tastes as the previous generation.”
Rock Man: “So Buick makes some design changes but also keeps many of the attributes that appealed to older generations. And their market share becomes smaller and smaller since existing buyers are dying off and not being replaced by younger buyers.”
Jordan: “Exactly. The Buick look today is very similar to what we recommended years ago, although there are many more electronic features available now.”
Rock Man: “So what’s the lesson for the black community?”
Jordan: “Rock Man, that’s the $1,000,000 question. What we do know is a simple, easy to understand and credible positioning statement is a start. And we need to tighten up your words.”
Rock Man: “Let’s get started. Here’s a napkin.”
(To be continued)