Why starting a business as a couple could be a minefield or a gold mine.

Couple working at a computer
Couple working at a computer
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Some couples would never in their wildest dreams want to own a business together. Others might think the idea is a dream come true.

At a time when the economy is shaky and you may not want to depend on someone else for your livelihood, starting a business together could be an attractive alternative. If you have even the slightest interest, I’m going to discuss the relationship side, not the business side, of owning a business as a couple. I’ll lay it all out for you: Why working together could be a minefield or a gold mine.

What makes me such an expert? My wife Sharon and I started and ran a service business together. We left our professional careers in our mid-fifties, relocated from the northeast to the southeast, and opened a mobile dog grooming business. Sharon was the groomer and I handled the marketing and financial details. Little did I know I would also have to service the grooming van! …

“Discrimination” doesn’t mean what you think.

Illustration of various people social networking
Illustration of various people social networking
Gordon Johnson, Pixabay.com

My 40-plus year career in direct marketing taught me a lot about marketing — including how to discriminate.

It turns out that one of the most important direct marketing principles has a lot to do with discrimination, but it is based on the secondary definition of discrimination: “Recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.” Unfortunately, most of us know discrimination only by its primary definition: “The unjust or prejudicial treatment of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.”

Direct marketing taught me to discriminate through a basic direct marketing tenet: There is nothing more important than recognizing and understanding the difference between one person and another. In direct marketing, you work very hard to become intimately knowledgeable of particular audience segments. You study demographics — data based on a specific group’s characteristics, such as age, gender, marital status, ethnicity, race, education, income and employment. You also study psychographics — data based on a specific group’s attitudes, aspirations, and likes and dislikes, such as habits, hobbies, buying behavior, political leanings and values. From all of this data, you build a profile of a target audience and then develop what you believe to be the best offer and creative approach for that audience. …

Symbolic or Systemic?

Stop Hate for Profit Logo
Stop Hate for Profit Logo

The “#StopHateforProfit” campaign is a boycott by businesses who agree to pause their advertising on Facebook for the month of July. According to the campaign’s organizers, “it is a response to Facebook’s long history of allowing racist, violent and verifiably false content to run rampant on its platform.” The backers of the campaign are themselves an interesting group: ADL (the Anti-Defamation League), NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Color of Change, Free Press and Common Sense. These organizations have distinct and diverse missions, but they’ve come together with the common goal of stamping out hate online.

What they think about Facebook is abundantly…

The huge cultural shift happening today is reminiscent of another time in American history.

Black is Beautiful button
Black is Beautiful button
North Carolina Museum of History

The Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 are likely to result in many transformative changes. One change already in the works is the decision by large consumer goods corporations to examine the racist legacies of their brands.

Aunt Jemima, Cream of Wheat and Uncle Ben are three brands that, because of racial stereotypes, will be eliminated. Others are sure to follow. Each of these brands has considerable equity that will be lost when their names and visual identities are changed — but this is a moment that calls for dramatic action, even in the brand world.

Discarding racially insensitive brands is, of course, not at the same level of importance as the systemic changes the current movement calls for. But, since advertising reflects popular culture, it does represent a huge cultural shift reminiscent of another time in American history — the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. That was an inflection point in brand marketing as well. …

Aunt Jemima syrup bottles
Aunt Jemima syrup bottles

As a retired marketing professional, I’ve been watching closely as major brands have jumped on the bandwagon of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Racially sensitive advertising campaigns in support of the movement are springing up like weeds. Most advertisers are adopting a mea culpa attitude, acknowledging their racist culpability.

Their efforts have been met with a mixture of acclaim and skepticism. Nike is one example. Four days after George Floyd’s death, Nike took a bold step, modifying its iconic “Just Do It” slogan to read, “For once, Don’t Do It” in an ad that urged, “Don’t turn your back on racism. … Don’t think you can’t be part of the change.” …


Barry Silverstein

I’m an author, blogger and retired marketing professional. Visit my website to learn more: https://www.barrysilverstein.com

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