Chapter 5: Black America, Brought to You by …

Tom Burrell founded Burrell Communications in 1971, a pioneer in Black advertising

By Lisa Covington

The development in marketing and advertising strategies were one facet of McDonald’s evolution, the second is the value of the community engagement and cultural context individual owners incorporated regularly. In Franchise, Chatelain provides an overview of how Black people from middle income and lower income groups would find appeal within commercials, particularly in the era immediately after the passage of The Civil Rights Act. The commonplace of public mistreatment, refusal to be served in restaurants and life-threatening circumstances required Black consumers to have familiarity of restaurants. Across socioeconomic status, African Americans dining experiences was rooted in the safety and trust of restaurants. The public value of Black cultural forms prioritized the confirmation of a consumer base through McDonald’s corporate values and philanthropy focused on double-dutch, Greek life, gospel, poetry, scholarships and recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Such efforts were included in either television commercials, sponsorship of youth sports competitions, and the recognition of local youth with high academic success. The ingenuity of Black franchise owners and marketing professionals are responsible for much of McDonald’s marketing and philanthropic success.

McDonald’s utilized two innovative companies in Black advertising and market research, respectively: the Burrell Communications and ViewPoint, Inc. Both companies recognized the tokenizing and unsuccessful nature of advertisements that included African Americans. The need for corporations to understand cultural context was pioneered by McDonalds’s with these two partners. As a result, McDonalds development of their ‘soul market’ began. Through the corporate understanding of Black consumers, Chatelain identifies a shift in the change in advertisements through the inclusion of Black vernacular and challenging racist images through the inclusion of Black men with families. Chatelain identifies that the ads challenged Black male stereotypes of the time, many stemming from the government study of African American families within The Moynihan ReportThe Moynihan Report, many scholars argue, provide a false narrative regarding Black families. Nonetheless, the narrative of inactive Black men and pathologizing Black women remained. Burrell challenged one stereotypes through the focal point of portraying positive images of Black fathers in advertisements. However, Black women were minimized and serve as a backdrop to the larger commercials. The limited initial focus on Black women illustrates the marketing companies’ difficulty in addressing Black female stereotypes in a public manner. Chatelain identifies that this patriarchal marketing strategy was at the expense of Black women customers in the infancy of the ‘soul market’. This strategy evolved as the market research revealed the national increase in single parent households, and the need to include the value of Black women in families became a necessary marketing technique.

Chatelain provides a concurrent connection between the impact of individual franchise community engagement to the development of marketing techniques specific to Black consumers. Philanthropy was directly related to improvement of neighborhoods and rewarding students’ academic success. The lack of market research regarding Black consumers encouraged these autonomous actions by African-American business owners. White dominant advertising practices within the larger corporate structure were an ineffective norm. Black franchise owners and marketing professionals strategies were the driving force of McDonald’s national philanthropic efforts and advertising strategies in the 1970s. Franchise provides a clear understanding of both the power of independent McDonald’s franchises and race conscious marketing strategies with particular attention to gender, cultural context and the ingenuity of Black professionals.