This Secret Strategy Keeps the Instant Pot at the Top of Amazon, Despite Almost No Marketing

You might already know about Instant Pot–a crazy success story from a small Canadian company, which is perennially one of the most popular products on Amazon

Muscling it to the top of the sales charts was an incredible feat, but part of how Instant Pot keeps building buzz hasn’t been well-understood. So, I talked recently with Instant Pot’s inventor, CEO Bob Wang, to discover his company’s marketing strategy.

In short, two words: Facebook and cookbooks (including several perennial bestsellers on Amazon.) Here’s how it all came about, why it works, and maybe how you can mimic their success.

A calculated viral phenomenon

The Instant Pot is really two things: It’s an updated, 21st Century pressure cooker, and it’s also a calculated viral phenomenon. We can break its hugely successful marketing strategy into three key steps.

Step 1: Build a great product.

Going by the sheer volume of ebullient 5-star reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, people agree it’s a pretty groundbreaking kitchen and cooking appliance. (Seriously, none of the rest of this would work if people didn’t really like the product.)

Step 2: The initial, low-cost marketing plan.

Back in 2010, Wang’s company sent free Instant Pots to 200 food bloggers and influencers. Those writers loved it (remember Step #1), blogged about it, and even wrote cookbooks. This created early word-of-mouth that other marketers would salivate over. 

Step 3: Maintain that high level of engagement. 

The ongoing effort is powered in part by a robust Facebook group that Wang’s company set up in May 2015. Seeded with content from Instant Pot HQ in Ontario (but also attracting scads of community submissions and comments) it’s grown to 1.1 million members. Most of them get ideas on how to use Instant Pots in their Facebook feeds every day.

“A really big choice”

Wang told me that the company chose to focus on Facebook groups after considering and rejecting an email marketing strategy. Their timing was perfect, for while Facebook groups had languished as a neglected feature on Facebook, they launched just as Mark Zuckerberg began to promote them.

Check out the official group now, and you’ll see lots of posts (new ones every few minutes), and lots of engagement. As I’m writing this story for example, this post–about decorating an Instant Pot–has been up for about 45 minutes. It already has more than 600 reactions.

“I think its better to have the customers talking to each other, rather than we just talk to our customers,” Wang told me. “This turned out to be a really big choice. If we’d gone the email marketing route, God knows where we’d be now.”

But there’s one more really big factor involved here as well–one that I’m not sure was anticipated at the start. It’s that Wang appears willing to let others share the wealth.

Sharing the wealth

There are actually more than 190 other community groups on Facebook about Instant Pot. They aren’t affiliated with the company, and many have specific focuses: a group for Instant Pot fans with autoimmune issues, or for parents, or for people who love Indian food. 

While some companies would try to crack down on other people using their trademark to build groups, Wang seems totally fine with it. Each new post and member means more free marketing, and they have a combined membership of 3.4 million.

“We we know that one community cannot cater to all needs,’ he said. Meantime, there are also about 1,500 Instant Pot-related cookbooks, including many Amazon bestsellers, that give the company free, constant, marketing on the very platform where they started selling to begin with.

For example, I reached out to author Coco Morante, whose book, The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook, was the #22 book on Amazon as I wrote this. She runs a separate Facebook page with about 300,000 fans.

My best guess, knowing a little bit about the publishing industry, is that Morante might make $500,000 if her sales remain steady at this level for a year.

“I will say I think your royalty estimate may be a little bit high,” she told me in a Facebook message, but she showered praise onInstant Pot and Wang himself, citing his “generosity of spirit, understanding of the power of word-of-mouth advertising and social media, and genuine desire to help home cooks.” 

Not much of a secret

A recent profile in the New York Times called Wang’s company “a new breed of 21st-century start-up,” since it has only 50 employees, raised no venture capital, and spends “almost nothing on advertising”–yet built a giant following.

I know there are a lot of entrepreneurs who would love to get one-tenth of the attention this product gets. The good news, perhaps is that as an engineer, Wang doesn’t seem find it all that surprising or complicated. 

It’s almost as if there’s a repeatable formula that others could use to build this level of customer engagement and sales, too.

“I don’t think there’s much secret,” he told me. “Get the product right, treat the customer well, and get them talking. And that’s it.”

Why This Cryptocurrency That’s Not Bitcoin Is Worth $83 Billion

Ripple had the second largest market cap out of any cryptocurrency at the end of 2017, and it’s currently in third place (behind Ethereum and Bitcoin), according to CoinMarketCap. Each individual XRP token is worth $2.14, but there are a whopping 38.7 billion of them in circulation, indicating a total value of nearly $82.8 billion. On Thursday the company behind Ripple — which is also called Ripple — announced a partnership with MoneyGram, its most significant validation to date.

So what’s all the fuss about? What makes XRP special, when there are so many cryptocurrencies out there? It comes down to speed. XRP is designed to be much faster than Bitcoin, with very low transaction fees. Ripple the startup — it’s both a cryptocurrency and a startup, sorry — makes a product called xRapid that is intended to automate cross-border money transfers for large financial institutions. It offers increased liquidity and lowers capital requirements.

In other words, xRapid is a rapid, XRP-based process that is otherwise equivalent to buying Bitcoin with fiat currency, sending the money to someone in another country, and having the recipient sell the Bitcoin for their own local fiat currency. (There’s no reason why an individual couldn’t substitute XRP for Bitcoin and do the whole thing by hand, but price fluctuations would pose more of a risk.)

In a phone conversation with Inc., Ripple head of product Asheesh Birla gave an example based on current Ripple client Cuallix, which facilitates cross-border money transfers (among other things). “What Cuallix does today is they have opened a bank account (that took several months to open) in Mexico. They then hire a broker to convert their U.S. dollars into Mexican pesos, and they park that, idle, in Mexico, so that they can do local payments.”

Modern consumers expect internet-speed financial services, Birla said, and the status quo is not sufficient: “It’s time-consuming — takes a couple of days — it’s costly, and it’s not a good experience.”

Birla went on to explain how Ripple does it. “There’s a digital asset exchange in Mexico and there’s a digital asset exchange on the spending side, in the U.S. What these digital asset exchanges do is they convert U.S. dollars to XRP, if [the money transfer] came from the U.S. side. In the receiving nation, depending on what you want to pay out, [xRapid] converts that digital asset — XRP — into Mexican pesos.” Voila!

That all seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? And yet Ripple is quite a controversial cryptocurrency, for two main reasons. The first is that people are skeptical about whether financial institutions actually want to use xRapid or XRP.

New York Times financial reporter Nathaniel Popper tweeted that his sources at banks were dismissive of Ripple. A representative comment: “It’s not clear to me why XRP would be used by banks at all.” (Popper’s tweet triggered a public back-and-forth with Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse, with Popper decidedly getting the last word.)

Even the MoneyGram announcement leaves some critics unimpressed, since they say the level of traction is overblown.

The second reason critics disregard XRP is that Ripple the company, which makes the xRapid product and aims to serve large financial institutions, is inextricably entwined with Ripple the token. Unlike Bitcoin, which is “mined” by computers using their processing power to run complex equations, Investopedia explains, “Ripple has no mining or miners whatsoever. Instead, transactions are powered through a ‘centralized’ blockchain to make it more reliable and fast.”

Ripple has complete control of XRP, which makes it no better than fiat currency in the eyes of the radical crypto-libertarians who make up crypto’s early-adopter class. Furthermore, “Ripple is not finite, and can be ‘printed’ on-demand, [which removes] the ability to accumulate and store value as only a deflationary asset can” — Bitcoin’s key selling point as an investment.

The company isn’t fazed by its naysayers. “We don’t know when the future is going to be ready,” Ripple head of product Asheesh Birla told Inc., paraphrasing former Ripple CEO Chris Larsen. “Internet of value is the future, and if we can continue executing on that future, big things will happen and we will change the world.”

5 Simple Steps to Increase Your Average Sale Size

It’s happening everywhere in consumer sales. Have you ever added fries to your lunch order at the suggestion of the cashier, or bought five accessories to complement your new camera or phone because there was a great “limited time offer“? If so, you’ve experienced the receiving end of a successful upsell. While it’s commonplace for products and goods, increasing your average sale size for software and services is a different ball game.  

As an entrepreneur or business owner, increasing average orders is gravy: it allows you to work less, grow your revenue faster, or increase your margins. However, many professionals think that doubling their average sale size is impossible, or so difficult it isn’t worth it. So, they spend all their efforts trying to increase the sheer volume of clients.

Doubling your average deal size is possible. Like those fast food companies and retail stores, it’s really about perfecting the timing, the offer and the value derived from it (think ROI). At my current company, we’ve implemented some simple tactics that helped us increase our deal size by 180 percent in the past three months.

The path to perfecting the upsell in any industry is really understanding your customers as a whole, and then personalizing the message to the individual. Once you understand their motivations, struggles and the value they derive from your product, you’ll have all the information you need to consistently increase your average sale size.

1. Understand The Decision Process

To find the perfect upsell for your customers, you’ll need to invest in learning about not only who they are, but also what value they get from your company and the frame of mind they’re in when interacting with you and your sales team. Start by exploring what your product does for them: is the problem it solves urgent, or is it a long-term investment? Is your product a “must-have” or a “nice-to-have”? Is it a product that needs to be adopted by the entire organization or can a small group start using it as a pilot? What level of management is making the final purchase decision?

2. Talk To The Right People

There are few things more frustrating than delivering a great sales presentation and forming a relationship with someone you think is a lead, only to find out that they aren’t the final decision maker. Yes, you’ve developed rapport and trust between your brand and someone at that company, but you’ll have to exert nearly as much effort to convince a second – or even third – person before you can close the sale. Worst, in some situations, the person you’ve pitched will go pitch their boss, the actual decision-maker, but leave out important details or make errors in their description — and your chances of closing a big deal are likely down the drain.

To find out who you should talk to at the organization you’re targeting, start by looking at the deals you’ve closed in the past, or deals that your colleagues have closed. What job title or seniority were the decision makers? If you’re not sure who the right person is, don’t be afraid to ask your lead if they are the decision maker or if they can introduce you to them.

For example, with my team, we’ve looked at the decision makers of our current clients by industry and by company size. At small advertising agencies, we may target the Managing Partner, whereas as, at medium-sized technology startups, the decision maker is more likely the VP of Sales.

You can also invest in a lead generation tool that includes a lead scoring function. It will help you programmatically analyze your customers and point to who you should target at organizations you haven’t yet contacted, which will save you a lot of time and confusion in the future.

3. Nurture With Personalization and Precision

Once you’ve identified who you should target, you should make sure you reach out to them with a very customized message. If you aren’t personalizing your messaging to leads, you’re significantly lowering your chances of a positive response. Using an outbound automation software that allows you to segment your leads will save you a lot of time.

One of the most effective ways we’ve found to personalize the messaging is to use merge tags in email sequences. These tags allow you to dynamically add content that is different in each email. For example, you can customize the first name, company name, industry and so on. 

4. Sell Your Unique Value

Value-based selling means creating a sales relationship that starts with a “discovery” stage in which you explore what problems your lead has that your product may be able to solve for (commonly referred as “pain-points”). Next, you help them realize how valuable it would be to solve that problem. And finally, explain the role your product would play in fixing the problem.

By following this formula, in this order, your lead will end up telling you why they need your product.This will not only make them more likely to buy, but also trust that your brand has their best interests in mind — which will make them more receptive to repeat and increased orders.

You’ll likely be able to group some of your customers around the unique value you’re delivering to them. For example, my team and I have split our clients into 3 main groups, for which we have a different value proposition:

  • Entrepreneurs Agencies. They typically do sales themselves and so we help them automate the outreach process.

  • Small and Medium Businesses. They typically have several sales reps and their goal is to increase revenue fast. We help them build a repeatable and scalable process.

  • Large Organizations. They typically have a large team, lots of (usually bad) data. We help them identify who they should target next and how to implement account-based sales efficiently.

5. Leverage Your Existing Connections and Clients

When you close a large contract with a big organization, you’ve likely developed a strong rapport with the decision makers. Don’t be shy about asking them for leads. A referral from a trusted source can often double the speed at which a lead gets through your sales funnel, and smooths the entire journey, as less trust needs to be developed from scratch.

In the past couple of months, we started to systematically ask our clients if they knew any other companies that would be a good fit. Referrals now represent about 20 percent of new business – our fastest growing acquisition channel. 

Increasing your deal size for your software or services might not be as simple as asking customers at checkout if they want to add fries, but it is within reach for every company. With a careful analysis of your customers and their decision process, as well as a strategic approach to engaging with the decision maker, you’ll be on track to double your deal size in 2018.

How to Keep Three Generations Happy in Your Modern Office

A topic that often goes unnoticed among HR departments and executive teams is the challenge of providing an office space that meets the needs of employees who span across multiple generations. While many young start-ups often hire a workforce that reflects themselves, the need for a more diverse workplace is growing, and this includes hiring across multiple age ranges.

Right now, there are three significantly different generations in the workforce: Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials. Let’s take a look at what office design and amenities each generation may require, and how you can implement some easy upgrades to your workplace layout  and functionality to keep all your employees happy.

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. The oldest of the 79 million Baby Boomers reached age 65 in 2011, and the youngest will arrive there by 2029. Because they heard often from their parents (the Traditionalist generation) about economic hardship, war, and right versus wrong ethics, this generation was instilled with a strong work ethic, desire to achieve with visible productivity, and clear goals and benefits. Baby Boomers are work-centric, goal-oriented, independent, and self-actualized. They thrive on security and team meetings that don’t waste their time. This group can build and maintain an unwavering company backbone, and they love friendly competition to spur everyone on to a greater goal. But they don’t like distractions or disconnection.

For the Boomers in your office, provide quiet offices and keep the music to a distraction-free and pleasant channel. Satisfy their competitive side with quarterly profit sharing, Employee of the Month awards, and team sports or outings. Boomers crave face to face time, so collaborative office spaces and modular work stations will suit them well. Don’t introduce too much Slack or video conferencing–it starts to wear thin.

Generation X

According to Time Magazine: “By 2019, Generation X — that relatively small cohort born from 1965 to 1978 — will have spent nearly two decades bumping up against a gray ceiling of boomers in senior decision-making jobs.”

Generation X, also referred to as Gen Xers, are also hard workers like Boomers and have most likely spent a large part of their career focused on one industry or even in one company. They apply themselves to move up the ladder while (perhaps disdainfully) observing their Millennial counterparts job-hopping and “following their bliss.”

Gen Xers appreciate nostalgia and remember the time before the Internet, so some offline work and unplugged meetings are appreciated and will stimulate creativity. However, they love and appreciate innovative technology, such as integrated hardware and data cables, invisible wiring, adjustable height desks, and spaces that contribute to their productivity. Give them comfortable furniture so they can be effective team leaders and move efficiently up the corporate ladder to get what they deserve.

Gen X also saw the rise of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, so recycled materials workstations, office greenery, recycling and compost efforts in employee lounges, as well as “Bike to Work” days will be appreciated by this group.

Millennials

Generation Y, better known to the entire universe as Millennials, have ushered in sustainability as a required benefit in the new modern office. Fond of implementing water features, living walls, solar panels, and green tech and paperless offices, Millennials want their company office to not only benefit the individual but benefit the greater good.

They’ve been raised almost entirely in a world of technology, so learning new tech or embracing flexibility is easy for them. In fact, don’t be surprised if many Millennials request to have a part-time minimalist commuter workspace so they can work virtually, or if they forgo their assigned cubicle to work on their Mac laptop in the employee lounge (closer to the coffee, of course).

Millennials basically relaunched the concept of the open office and their desire for light, minimal and fun spaces has been tarnished by the “ugh, ping pong tables?” think pieces in media. But Millennials can encourage work-centric Boomers to take breaks, give positive feedback to Gen Xer’s leadership, and will happily tweet about their work experience to build the brand. They are team players who are introducing equity as a higher standard of equality. They’ll love communal work tables, bright and bold offices, and conference rooms that break the mold.

While it may be nearly impossible to provide an age-neutral office, you can provide each employee with an age-neutral personal workspace and a limited to budget to personalize it as they see fit. We live in the age of flexible workstations and modular layouts as well as innovative office accessories. This could lead to stronger talent loyalty, fostering a personalized company culture, and a happier and more creative staff. 

Facebook Wants Your Data and Is Launching Their Home Device ‘Portal’ This Year to Compete

Our habits, especially in the home are about to change. Or at least Facebook is betting on that. Facebook is joining Amazon, Google and Apple in a crowded battle for who can create the most convenient and indispensable home device. 

Facebook’s new “Portal” will cost $499 and be available in the second half of this year. It’s intended to build off of Amazon’s Echo Show–which costs half the price and allows users to perform assistant tasks as well as chat via video on a small screen. 

Portal will be an audio/video device with a laptop sized screen that may ambitiously be intended to replace the family iPad. It will provide instant video calling to anyone in your Facebook feed, work with all streaming services, connect to apps and respond to voice commands. 

The price may be an issue.

Facebook may be willing to lower the price before launch date but reportedly Mark Zuckerberg isn’t concerned if this device makes a profit or not. And that shouldn’t sound crazy to you. 

The biggest theme to watch in 2018 will be products that don’t need to make money in an obvious way. Amazon, Google and Apple haven’t created home AI devices so you can have a better speaker in your kitchen. 

They want your data. Not in a bad way. Your microwave isn’t trying to kill you. But every company in 2018 wants your data. That’s how AI gets better. And as we shift further and further to audio search rather than click-based search it threatens the existing duopoly that exists for Google and Facebook. 

They can’t afford to lose ground in search but they also know the landscape has changed. The new key to search–and the very lucrative advertising around it–is convenience via these home AI devices.

How data is changing competition.

Uber’s new credit card isn’t a play to get in the financial space. They want your restaurant data and they are willing to give you 4 percent cash back to get it. Why? So they can know what you like and create “ghost kitchens” for Uber Eats. Uber can create dozens of pop-up restaurants on the app to serve people using one commercial kitchen and a couple chefs. Cutting down on overhead it’s a potential game-changer in 2018 and beyond. 

Target bought Meijer’s grocery delivery service Shipt last month for $550 milllion. Shipt isn’t intended to be profitable. Shipt users pay $100 a year to get their groceries and household items delivered. The goods are marked up slightly in some cases but after paying a driver $15 an hour to collect and deliver the items it’s basically a break-even. 

So why so much interest in Shipt? Because it creates loyalty. Target is betting that you’ll choose convenience first every time. And don’t be surprised if Amazon, which now owns Whole Foods, eyes Target this year for acquisition. 

Original content is key if you want to compete.

If you run a startup–or are startup curious– you may look at this data collection by industry giants and wonder how on earth you’ll be able to compete. But every action has a reaction. When Apple launched the App Store it created room for Instagram and thousands of others to thrive. 

There’s nothing stopping you right now from creating a ghost kitchen. And Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple are all trying to differentiate in the home market. They will need help in creating tools, widgets and items that help create an edge. Any good startup mentor will tell you to identify not where companies put their budget but where they are about to put their budget.

While people may talk about the booming industries of marijuana and medical wearables–and they are not wrong–original digital content may be just as big. Digital content is causing Silicon Valley, telecom and network television to blend. As that content goes further and further to mobile and other devices, Facebook, Amazon and more are making plays in original programming. Apple is investing $1 billion this year in original content. 

At the end of the day, the consumer may choose a home device or a wireless provider based on what original content it has access to and therein lies the opportunity as a startup. This war will be fought over content and exclusives, not bells and whistles. 

Go make that content. 

3 Leadership Techniques You Can Learn From Oprah’s Speech at the Golden Globes

This past Sunday, at the Golden Globes Oprah, gave a phenomenal speech. If you didn’t see it, you’ve definitely heard about it. While speaking she made all of us feel heard.

It’s no news that Oprah knows all the secret sauces to success.

What she said that night was extraordinary and strong, and it displayed her immedicable leadership ability. So much so, that many are left wondering if she’ll be running for President of the United States in the next election.

But it wasn’t just what she said, it was how she said it.

There’s so much to learn from Oprah Winfrey, this week she gave us three simple but brilliant tools to being a better leader.

1.  Legitimize yourself as a leader.

When receiving Cecil B. de Mile Awrard at the 75th annual Golden Globes, Oprah hardly talked about her career and the work she’d done to make it to that stage. Instead, Oprah used this opportunity as a platform to encourage, and to lead.

She built herself up, without bragging.

Oprah explained that she had seen the Sidney Poitier win a Golden Globe and how it had impacted her life. She explained how much it meant for her to see a black man being celebrated. And while displaying the gravity of that situation she let her audience know that it was an honor to be in similar position.

 “In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille award right here at the Golden Globes and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award.”

She gave weight to this moment, and let her audience share the magnitude of it. Oprah wasn’t shy to point out that she was making history.

She legitimized herself as a leader, but she didn’t shove the concept down her audiences throat. She led them to that conclusion with a relatable personal experience, and historical facts.

2.  Empower your audience.

Oprah’s speech made her audience feel powerful. She applauded their ability to create change and encouraged their opportunities to keep progressing.

“Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have”

It’s not about a truth, or even the truth, Oprah makes it about a personal truth. She makes even the most general statement personal, which makes it even more compelling. 

She gives power to her entire audience by empowering each and every individual.

She points to the incredibly powerful stories of Rosa Parks, and Recy Taylor to promote her point: individuals are powerful.

3. Include everybody.

Throughout her speech Oprah referenced the #MeToo movement. When discussing this movement fueled by men in power harassing women, she empowers both men and women.

“For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up… and it’s here with every woman who chooses to say, “Me too.” And every man — every man who chooses to listen.”

Beyond empowering genders, Oprah empowers communities. She shows magnificent signs of leadership  by not leaving anybody out.

“But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace…They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They’re part of the world of tech and politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.”

In about 9 minutes Oprah has gone from walking on stage to uniting the entire world. She includes everybody, and this is one of the most important qualities in a leader. The best leaders understand that there is power in numbers. So instead of diving groups, they combine them.

Through legitimizing herself, empowering and including her audience, she united them, which is what every leader should be trying to do.

What the Rise of Hip Hop Culture in Korea Can Teach Us About Cultural Relevancy and Sensitivity

We’ve all had our taste of Korean culture, whether it be our fair share of listening to the K-Pop hit “Gangam Style”, or watching the immensely popular and global sensation K-Drama “The Descendants of the Sun” or even visiting the popular K-Con convention in L.A. and New York. Yet, nothing quite peaks our interest like the 2015 Rap Hit “It G Ma” by Keith Ape.

What makes this song so special is not the obvious. What it actually does is borrow the flow from OG Maco’s satirical “U Guessed It”. What is really great is that Keith Ape has the courage to not only bring Japanese rappers like KOHH on the track, but also U.S. based Hip-Hop vets like A$AP Ferg and Waka Flocka Flame to an already multicultural cast (Note: Remix Version Includes U.S. rappers mentioned above). So, the question stands, is this cultural appropriation, even though black rappers have jumped on the track? Before we answer the question, let’s look at different aspects of Korean entertainment, starting with K-Dramas. Contrary to popular belief, K-Dramas are a global sensation, watched not only by Koreans or other Asian groups, but also popular among Latin Americans, North Americans and Europeans.

Consumers have a plethora of legal and illegal ways of consuming this content, with providers like Viki and Drama Fever leading the charge. Outside of the popularity, these K-Dramas also have a huge effect on consumer shopping behaviors. After being shown on various K-Dramas, a simple Google search of “Product Featured in K-Drama” will bring up multiple listings of beauty products, fashion accessories, books, and even foods that are all selling out.

Product placement is not a new tactic, in fact it has been used since the nineteenth century by esteemed French novelist Jules Verne in his novel “Around the World in Eighty Days” where the success of the novel led to transport and shipping companies lobbying to be mentioned in his story. In 2006, marketing research firm PQ Media, estimated that $3.36 billion in revenue was generated worldwide through product placement, a figure that continues to grow today.

So why do we not see more American based products featured in K-Dramas? One potential challenge American brands might see is the fact that Korean entertainment has to first overcome its long history of unintentionally misunderstanding other cultures. From its blackface blunders by the Korean Mamamoo band to wearing Nazi inspired outfits in K-Pop videos by the all-female Korean band called Pritz.

So what makes the Keith Ape song “It G Ma” so different? According to OG Maco’s since deleted tweet, this was in fact cultural appropriation and blatant stealing of his IP. So, the question we should be asking from marketers is, “how do we avoid appropriating culture moving forward?” First and foremost, the following answer should not be taken as gospel but more as topics for discussion.

Bring multiple perspectives

When creating content that seeks to pay homage to another culture it is always important to bring multiple sides of the spectrum to the conversation. Having singular thoughts coming from a predominantly homogenous group always spells trouble. Does anyone remember Pepsi trying to borrow the Black Lives Matter movement and making it into a message of “unity, peace and understanding”? One word to describe this mess, FAIL. Prior to releasing this spot, it would’ve been beneficial for Pepsi to bring BLM advocates to the table to discuss issues surrounding Black Americans and appropriate ways of depicting the movement without assumptions.

Understand before depicting

With the ever-increasing globalization of cultures, thanks in part to the internet, it’s probably smart for marketers to do research on both the culture they are targeting with their advertising as well as the culture they are referencing. Remember the long-forgotten Groupon commercials of 2011 that depicted Timothy Hutton discussing human rights abuses in Tibet and shortly after raving about deals he got at restaurants. Another obvious fail that tried to play off of current political and social issues in the wrong way. The right thing to do in this case would be for Groupon to develop a PR campaign that addressed social issues separately from their bottom line.

Dig deeper

3. Education, Education, Education … a key pillar that is consistently overlooked, yet should be the foundation to any marketing initiative your brand is exploring as it relates to multicultural audiences. Educating yourself is the difference between making a beautiful and culturally appropriate spot like the 2014, America the Beautiful spot by Coca Cola, or like the Chinese detergent commercial that depicted a black male being washed and coming out as a white Asian male.

So, what does this all mean? For one, regardless if it’s Korean culture, Black culture, or Latin culture we need to make sure that when we borrow certain elements from these cultures, that we are bringing people to the table who live and breathe it day in and day out. Cultural perspective from these people are the difference between successfully recognizing a culture or appropriating it.

This article was co-authored by Boris Litvinov @GravityMediaLLC