Reflection on “Promotion: The 4 P’s of Marketing – Selling Junk Food to Communities of Color”

By Maria Figueroa, Research Coordinator at The Center for Reducing Health Disparties

While reading a recent article by Berkeley Media Studies Group about targeting minority communities with unhealthy advertisements, two questions came to mind: the first was, “Do you believe brands such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and McDonald’s are targeting African American and Hispanic minorities?”

Industries are using the 4 P’s (product, price, place and promotion) to attract minorities, specifically African American and Hispanic communities. This article cites a 2019 study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity  indicating Black children and teens saw 90% more ads for snacks and sugary drinks on TV compared with white teens.  The study also found unhealthy foods represented 86% of food advertising spent on Black-targeted television programming and 82% of advertising spending on Spanish-language television.

In addtion, brands are now using media platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat to target minorities, which is not accidental. Data shows that 95% of minorities have access to devices and 45% of minorities are consistently on social media platforms.  A platform such as YouTube is being used by 85% of minorities that have access to a device, 72% use Instagram and 69% use Snapchat. Black and Hispanic influencers are on these social media platforms and are being used to promote unhealthy and sugary foods targeting their own communities.

The next question I  had while reading this article was: “How is this affecting me?”

As a Hispanic mother of a 15-year-old boy, this article hits home. Although my son did not get access to a phone until he was about 11 years old, I have seen the effects of social media on him. Sometimes having the latest shoes on the market or the most expensive designer belts are more important because influencers advertise these expensive products and make it seem like a priority for kids. This is becoming a serious problem because teens are becoming more attracted to what is shown on social media and even copy what’s out there, to the extent that they can. Another example came to mind the last time I was in a movie theater.  There are always a specific ad for Coke. It looks so refreshing and appealing, it’s hard to refrain from having one right before the movie starts. These types of captive-audience advertisements for junk food are a huge problem for adults, let alone impressionable kids. I wish industries would take our health and especially our childrens’ health into consideration instead of thinking so much about making more money.