Wednesday, December 24, 2014

What “I Can’t Breathe” Means for Marketers

The phrase, “I can’t breathe” is usually a cry for help in American culture. In most circumstances, after that phrase is used, medical attention is sought for the person that is struggling to breathe. Unfortunately, Eric Gardner cannot say the same thing.
 In July 2014, Gardner, a 43 year old, 350 pound African-American man was approached by undercover officers. Which began what Gardner felt as harassment. The police knew him to sale individual untaxed cigarettes. When one of the officers approached Gardner, he pleaded that he did nothing wrong.  Following Gardner’s request to be left alone, the officer attempted to subdue the “suspect” and Gardner swiped his hands away. This gesture led to additional officers taking physical action and eventually putting Gardner in a chokehold. Chokeholds have been prohibited by New York City Police since 1993.
 While all of this was captured on video, you can hear Eric Gardner repeating his last words “I can’t breathe” before his body was left on the pavement, motionless and unresponsive.  This tragedy has garnered nationwide attention.
The video of the officer choking Eric Gardner, which led to his death, went viral, and many “famous” people have chimed in to bring awareness to this terrible issue. For example some professional athletes have worn “I can’t breathe” t-shirts such as LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kevin Garnett of the Brooklyn Nets, and other NBA stars. The most recent outcry is  by Samuel L. Jackson, a famous actor. He encourages everyone that participated in the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Ice Bucket challenge to participate in his challenge as well. He asks people to sing the 'We Ain't Gonna Stop til People are Free' song." This challenge not only brings awareness to the Eric Gardner tragedy, but sheds light on some police officers abuse of their power without receiving  any reprimand. Of course, people die every day but not usually by the hand of a person sworn to protect the public and keep the peace.   
After reading this blog you might ask yourself; what does this have to do with marketing? This matter is relevant to marketers because the “I can’t breathe” phenomenon is not a multi-cultural issue, but rather a Millennials matter. Individuals that are around my age, 23 years old, whether they are Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, or Asian are coming together and again speaking out for what could be considered right or wrong in America.  As a marketer, what can you do to help the voice of millennials be heard? What can you do to bring awareness to this issue and other issues like it?  What will you do to take a stand?

Written by Michael Frank Steele, Marketing Intern, Advantage Communications, Inc.