The power of subliminal messaging has been discussed and debated in regards to commercial advertising for many years. By now, most savvy consumers are aware of all the companies’ and corporations’ implicit and explicit claims to improve a person’s potential to have more sex, become more attractive or jump start their social life just by picking up a product.

As consumers, we have watched as some brands hit and miss the mark, often making headline news when they miss like with the Hail to the V campaign and Nivea’s “Civilize Yourself” campaign. These ads often push the boundaries so much so that they go overboard, and Seagrams liquor is no different.

Sitcom Joke Turned Reality

For people who remember the sitcom, “The Wayans Brothers,” featuring Marlon and Shawn Wayans, you may remember an episode entitled, “Gots to Have a J.O.B.” During the course of this episode, budding actor Marlon is cast for a role in a commercial for a new type of malt liquor called J.O.B. He quickly realizes, however, that his dreams of stardom come with a complicated price when issues regarding color and stereotypes arise as not-so-subtle racist marketing tactics come into play.

The episode was meant to be funny and shocking, but also sought to call attention to the ways in which businesses can reaffirm and even create stereotypes that in turn lead to prejudice against certain classes and cultures.

More than a decade later, in a time period that many once thought would be void of such stereotypical messages, Seagram’s has seemingly taken a page out of the same ridiculous book that inspired the Wayans. Except this time, Seagram’s is serious.

In their most recent marketing campaign, they have made it quite clear as to who they believe will be purchasing their alcohol by including a free du-rag with each bottle. Yes, a free du-rag emblazoned with their gold marketing.

Branding & Demographic Stereotypes

Although other cultures have worn scarves and other fabrics to protect their hair throughout history, in the United States, in our current time period, the du-rag is pretty much universally seen as an African-American headpiece. In fact, the du-rag was established as an African-American piece as early as the 1800s.

Whereas other companies are typically smart enough to only subtly insinuate their racist or sexist slants in advertising, Seagram’s has decided to go all the way into exploitative territory by directly targeting Black consumers by offering a product that is historically African-American.

By shamelessly targeting the urban market with these free products, they clearly show their ignorance of the breadth of Black culture as well as their insensitivity towards the very people they are trying to convince to purchase their liquor.

Your Money, Your Choice

Luckily, when companies make massive mistakes that reveal their greed for money, consumers will always have the last laugh. When people stop spending their money on things they no longer stand behind — for moral reason or otherwise — the corporations that make those products as well as the advertisers that agree to run thoughtless campaigns have no other choice but to take heed.

Anyone with natural hair already knows how important it is to keep our locks covered and protected at night, especially to extend our the life of our hairstyles. But as a community, the line must be drawn when companies without the health of our hair in mind start to suddenly take interest, and pair it with alcohol no less. For this natural, I say no thank you!

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Final Thoughts

What do you think about Seagram’s du-rag advertising campaign?

Kristian Richards

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