Nichelle Pace has been producing high level marketing campaigns for 20+ years, pairing her client brands with artists such as The Roots, Sway, LL Cool J, John Legend, and Marlon Wayans. Today Nichelle talks about the challenge and responsibility of being a Black woman in advertising, eliminating the notion of multicultural marketing, and why mentorship is so important to her now.

Brand Enchanting
Culture Niche Podcast

Transcript

Jackie Ferguson: Please welcome Nichelle Pace to the Diversity Beyond the Checkbox podcast. Nichelle has spent the majority of her career building brands, leading innovations in marketing, from print to digital and was an early adopter of multicultural marketing. Nichelle has worked with big brands and bigger names.

Nichelle is the president and principal at Brand Enchanting media and the host of the culture niche podcast. Nichelle, welcome to our show.

Nichelle Pace: Thank you, Jackie. Thanks for having me.

Jackie Ferguson: Of course. Well let’s start our conversation with your background. You’ve been in high-level marketing for two decades and, you know, I’m asking for some name drops here, but can you tell us about some of the interesting people that you’ve worked with over the years?

Nichelle Pace: For sure. At one point in my career, I was doing a lot of integrated marketing that dealt with events, with the space of some of the vice brands, alcohol tobacco almost – oh God, 20 years ago now. So, we got to work with some fantastic artists at that time, including, folks you may see on Jimmy Fallon, like The Roots.

I did a couple of tours with them, LL cool. J did a segment of our tour.  Back then his security guy, Boom, was one of my favorite people to just sit and chat with. another artist, Lyfe Jennings actually sung me a birthday song backstage. And John Legend’s first solo tour.

So, I scouted him when he released his album after, you know, working with Kanye West as a keyboardist, and on the cool new jazz philosophy tour was his first tour as a headliner. And a little bit more recently doing some work with Sharp Electronics. We stumbled into a conversation that Sway Calloway was having on his radio show and on MTV, about the first TV, Sways first TV, and it happened to be a Sharp TV. And so, we jumped on that.

The story was Kanye West gave him the TV, but he didn’t give him the remote. So, we actually gave him the old remote to the TV, the Sharp PZ, as he called it and contacted, his marketing team. On the back channels when we saw the social media chatter. And in about 12 days, pulled together an activation from New York City for South by Southwest to sponsor some events, give him the TV.

We gave him a large TV, like a 65 inch to replace the smaller TV. And that was really interesting, cause even during the whole time we’re there, and I’m prepping my client to be on the radio. And those types of things, Sway, walks over to me, he’s like, you look like you’re the brains of this operation.

And I was like, well, thanks for recognizing that. But yes, this was, you know, my idea to make sure you got this TV, which turns out he’s like, I can’t get people to leave my house or watching this huge TV. so, I’ve had some interesting interactions., with people, and brands in terms of the entertainment world and, it’s been very fruitful.

I’ve made some good relationships along the way. And finally, it can’t forget this, that whole sharp electronics, activation ended up in a Kendrick Lamar song. What we did from a marketing standpoint actually made it into pop culture. And, you know, from an advertising standpoint, if your brand makes it into a lyric of a song. You’ve made a pretty big impact.

Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. Oh, that’s awesome. Nichelle, of all the celebrities that you’ve met over the years who impressed you the most and why.

Nichelle Pace: Outside of Sway being very impressive and understanding the business and relationships. I have to say I was on the volunteer, my give-back marketing committee team for big brothers, big sisters in the independence region, which represents Philadelphia, South Jersey, Delaware.

and they were doing our hundredth anniversary event. And I was assisting them with getting. More involved in social media, more engaged. So, I’m at the event and the host they had was Marlon Wayans. And I must say it, just such a consummate professional. He stayed at the after party for the VIP’s.

He worked the room until maybe only four people were left. And that was just super impressive. Just talking with him. besides, you know, being funny and being a comedian, he just really made sure that he knew he was there to be a brand ambassador. And he did his job to the fullest. And I was just very impressed on how he made sure he met almost everyone in that room.

And stayed around and engaged with everyone in the room, and authentically, and to bring a smile to their face. So, it was just real impressive, the way he approached, working with a company or doing a corporate event and staying, beyond as well. That, that was really impressive by Marlon Wayans. I must say.

Jackie Ferguson: That is really fantastic. You know, relationships are so important, aren’t they in, any industry, it’s important to have those relationships with people and build those relationships. That’s how you, keep your business going. That’s how you, continue to do bigger and greater things. So that’s, that’s really awesome to hear.

Being a black woman in advertising is tough and 20 years ago it was even tougher. Nichelle, can you talk to us about some of the challenges for black women, in your industry and how did you navigate it?

Nichelle Pace: One of my biggest challenges was not having a mentor, or never walking in a door at an agency and seeing anyone high up that looked like me. It’s a little bittersweet, cause it’s a bit twofold you know, at the time early on in my career, as I was moving up to director level, I tried to seek out working for more diverse agencies or multicultural agencies that had, leadership of color or may have been black or Brown led.

But even then, it was kind of a struggle because again, it’s about relationships and if they don’t know you, even though you might think, well, I’m a person of color. I have the chops; I have the experience. It was still a bit clique-ish back then. Cause you know, that old adage of, you know, crabs in a barrel, you know, there was still a level of competitiveness,

between Black and Brown people in this space, you know, 20 and 15 years ago. One thing not having a mentor and seeing people like me, or sometimes being the only Black woman at the table, it gets lonely. you don’t have anybody to bounce ideas off of going through my whole career without a sponsor. When you don’t have a sponsor in the upper levels of senior management and sitting in the C-suite, you tend not to, put your head down and just stay at an agency for 10, 15 years. So, I was never one of those 10, 15-year veteran agency folks.

I’m a veteran in the ad industry over all and in media and entertainment, because I did start in film and video production. But it was just very challenging and kind of a lonely ride. My status on my i-chat, AIM at the time, used to be 3% and people used to always say, what does that mean?

I’m like, cause I’m part of the 3% of people of color that are account director level or higher in the agency world. 3%. You know, and that was all people of color, not just Black people, you know? And, and so that was, you know, 17, almost 18 years ago that I was at 3% and that needle hasn’t moved far. So not having the, the mentorship, not having the representation, not having the sponsors.

And just generally not feeling supported, whether it be through HR or upper management, when you’re experiencing micro aggressions, there was no one you could turn to either put your head down, and if you spoke up, you just knew that, you know, they were going to try and push you out the door.

No, I had to go through an experience where, you know, taking a severance package to be quiet about things that, you know, I thought were unfair and unjust. It was very challenging and difficult, so I pride myself on being a mentor and being in this space and being that representation to the younger generation, someone I just interviewed to bring on my team, you know, she was bursting at the seams at the end of the call.

She’s like, I just have to tell you, you don’t understand how much it means to talk to a Black woman.  And interview for a Black woman. You know, I almost busted into tears. I just almost busted it tears like, Oh, it does mean something.  And I’m looking at her as like a reflection of myself. Yeah, it does mean something. I, and you know, I’ve had interactions with senior level black woman, but they were not part of, you know, my daily routine and the agency, maybe on the client side, Rhonda Plummer, back in a day, we kind of talked about her and, and some of my industry, friends that are also African-American women.

We told her how much she meant to us, even though we didn’t get to… We interacted with her on as our client. But at the same time, she didn’t realize how much we looked up to her. Cause we were like, here’s a woman, she’s a VP of a major national corporation. She’s so calm, cool collected. We called her the Oracle, but she was an inspiration for, so. You. Know, for the few of us that were in the space at the time, working in marketing and advertising and, consumer activation, that we looked up to because we didn’t have that in our own organization.

Jackie Ferguson: Now, Nichelle, what advice would you give to young, professionals who are culturally diverse entering into this space.

Nichelle Pace: You have to have, a level of flexibility, but you also have to be really grounded and centered with people.   When you work in advertising and marketing or any medium, or you’re putting out content, there is a level of responsibility that you have.

To do no harm to culture, to society. You see it with, you know, this phenomenon of fake news and misinformation and all the things that are happening. You have to really be conscious about what you’re putting out as a creator, what words you’re writing as a copywriter and the impact that it has on people, because we have the power to communicate to millions at a time in one shot.

So, as you know, the cheesy Spider-Man say goes with great power comes great responsibility, you must take on that responsibility and take it seriously. You know, consumers are not just data points. They are people and people have pains, passions, joys, frustrations, and you can either be a, a positive force.

With somebody in their day or a negative force, or you can make them laugh or you could make them cry. You can make them think. But everything we do is about persuasion and influence, and we do it at such a mass scale as marketers, that   I take that responsibility seriously, and I try and impart that onto the next generation.

Like, don’t take what you do for granted. A lot of people just want to look at the surface. Yeah. Oh, that’s cool. We got to make a cool add or we got to make something that was funny or we got something to go viral, but how’s that work going to be remembered in this space? What kind of impact does it have, and was it a positive experience for the consumer, for the people that are viewing that content or seeing that ad or listening to that podcast?

Like what can you leave behind that people will remember in a positive manner? And that’s what I try to impart on the younger generation.

Jackie Ferguson: Nichelle. That is great advice. Thank you for sharing that. Over the course of your career, you were a leader in the transition from print to digital media.  I’d love to hear a little more about that.

Nichelle Pace: Yeah, it was an interesting time.  Maybe 17 years ago we started getting more into digital, heavy on the print, event, activation side, obviously commercial side of things.

The agency I was at the time where I mentioned doing so many of those concerts on the event activation side, we did a heavy print campaign and we partnered with a digital agency digital shop in New York. We were in Philly at the time, a digital shop in New York to put together a platform where people can actually kind of make music mixes online and then kind of save and download the MP3.

So that was interesting, but then just seeing the whole digital and social media kind of blow up and evolve, I became an early adopter, installing a digital practice at another agency in Philly that they did not have at the time and helping integrate some of the services to add more digital services, you know, working with at the time they were called greater Philadelphia tourism and marketing commission on, you know, blogs and social media content, which is now known as visit Philly.

In launching a site that they had called you wish you knew. And I had at the time also started a blog called Style Mom because I saw a need in this space for, gen X moms at the time. Now it would include millennial moms where there was no one talking to us. Vogue was kind of talking to you if you were 20, you know, Still had your size four body and you could say, you know, see all the fashion and beauty trends.

And then More magazine had come out and it was supposed to be for the 40 plus woman, but it was very much kind of cardigans and khakis, and even some of the commercials for moms back, you know, 20 years ago was very much cardigan and khakis and I’m like, that’s not who we are. You know, so being an early adopter and starting a blog, getting more involved on social media, on my own, helped me understand that world more and bridge that gap between agencies and what we now call content creators.

I don’t even think we call them bloggers anymore. Being an early adopter and being around for the start of conferences, such as Blogalicious, and in working with the ladies there, you know, these are all my digital tribe, the lovies of the world, Afro Bella, you know, these, we all kind of started at the same time.

Isa Ray, you see you’re now on HBO secure. We were all at these conferences. Trying to really create a space in the digital and social media world for women of color and trying to figure out how we can amplify our own voices and yet navigate the business of advertising and media and working with brands. So just joining that space early on helped me, really, stay up on the trends of social media. And then I could take that experience to the agency side, some of the talks that I would give at the conferences because I was an agency vet would be how to show the content creators to bloggers, influencers, how to package yourself, to work with agencies.

What types of metrics they’re looking for, you know, how to make your own media kit?   A lot of us, in this space, black woman in media and entertainment were kind of navigating space together, how to stay on top of the digital trends and those types of things. So, it was definitely an interesting time and I am forever grateful.

To be a part of that movement that started back in 2009.  And going up till today, it’s funny that. It’s been that long, you know, and to see everything evolve, we went from a place we would style mom, I’m trying to get invitations to fashion week. And the PR people, you know, back then the magazines they wanted nothing to do with bloggers.

They felt as though we were a threat, especially if you talked about fashion and beauty, the editors didn’t want anything to do with it. And then, another friend in the biz Yuli Ziv she started the style coalition. She put together a whole group of bloggers. started to style coalition. She’s a business development queen and she brokered to deal with L magazine to be a part of the digital network.

Then they started to see the value of the voice of influencers and bloggers and what, the folks that were the loud voices of digital social media actually had to offer in terms of, extending your content creation, whether it’s graphic design or photography or, or writing creative writing, you know, And the ROI started to come in.

And that’s what changed a lot of people’s hearts and minds about working with, digital influencers and social media influencers. So, it was a very interesting time. And to watch this evolution and I look at the, the Tik Tok generation now, like, you don’t even know what we’ve been through, so you could do this.

Because you know, cause now brands are all in their boxes. Hey, you want to be our Instagrammer? You don’t even know we; they weren’t even checking for us. Over a decade ago, but now you guys are, you know, you’re the cream of the crop now. So, go for it, go for some be great. But we had, we had to put in some work, for influencers to even be taken seriously.

Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. That is so amazing. You know, the thing is people have a hard time with change. Yeah. And, you know, moving from print and everything being print to digital, you know, what is this, it was a tough transition, I think, for a lot of organizations and this transition now with our society becoming more and more diverse, we have a similar issue, like, you know, with change and, and people. Being resistant to change.

And on that topic, we’ll move into multicultural marketing. Cause I know you were an early adopter of that. What do organizations need to know and Nichelle about why this is important to ensuring sustainable business?

Nichelle Pace: Let me just frame the whole multicultural piece and, where my philosophy and ideology lie in multicultural. First of all, the world is multicultural for so long the advertising industry was very much general market and multicultural market, which made zero sense because we buy the same products for the most part, unless it’s geared to, you know, unless it’s dark skin makeup, obviously that’s going to dark skin women, but even within that, that’s various cultures.

So, I think our industry needs to remove the eye, the whole notion of multicultural marketing, because marketing inherently is multicultural marketing. You’re not just talking to one culture. You’re not just talking to one age demographic. You’re not just talking to one gender. So, within that, all marketing has to be considered multicultural marketing because you’re trying again, to reach the masses and the masses is inclusive of many different cultures.

You know, you might have to target a little bit differently if you’re trying to reach 30 plus, but even if you’re trying to reach 30 plus or 30 plus moms, if you were a segment. You’re still talking to moms of various kinds, backgrounds, socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, gender backgrounds, the whole nine.

So, I think we need to evolve this notion that multicultural marketing is separate. It’s not, it is what we’re doing. You know, we, we target maybe different groups, different affinity groups. Sure, which, which is part of the, the science of advertising and marketing. I always say what we do is the ultimate pinnacle of steam. Science, technology, engineering, art, and math.

That is essentially what advertising and marketing is. It’s the behavior science, it’s the technology of using, you know, digital services or social media services.  The engineering, the building of these platforms, the art is the design and the commercial work that you see. And then the math, when we start tracking the data and the analytics of how well, our creative and our advertising, our marketing.

And our messaging is performing. so multicultural marketing in itself needs to be flipped on its head to just be marketing because that’s what we’re doing. We are marketing to the masses and it doesn’t need to be separate. Do you need to switch up your images to have diversity? Yes, that’s different.

That’s on the execution side, but you don’t have to have an entirely separate budget to market. You just need to make sure that your current marketing plan is inclusive of all the cultures you want to hit instead of trying to make it separate. And that’s what I would really want to see. our industry, move to is remove these terms, general market and multicultural market, and just everything is multicultural marketing, because we’re always going to be talking to different types of people who may like the same brand, but they have different passion points. And that in itself, like I said, is inherently multicultural.

Jackie Ferguson:  Love that perspective.

Let’s talk about your podcast, the Culture Niche. Can you share your plan for that and talk about? Some of your upcoming, guests for your podcasts?

Nichelle Pace: the culture niche was developed as another avenue to put our voice out into the space of Brand Enchanting media. and it’s also our content hub. Where we’re going to not just have these podcasts episodes.  But we will also have different articles and news pieces about, diversity and culture, around marketing branding, the arts. Entertainment, all the things that kind of touch the advertising world.

We recently just had Jazzy Jeff, and next month is women’s history month, and we’re looking to a couple of CMOs, and then a head of a nonprofit, Tanuja Dehne will be our guests next month,

And then some more, we were waiting for a confirmation on, but we’re going to have a mixture of diverse voices, diverse people to talk about everything, centered around culture and how it relates to the arts advertising, media. Marketing, and influence overall.

And just let them kind of tell their stories and tie in the executional parts of what we do, like our conversation with Jazzy Jeff, we talked about the pivot during the pandemic and the use of the technology platforms and Instagram and how he has his own app that he created to self-host some of his live streams.

So, getting what their inspiration is to manipulate some of the mediums and, and then how they view that from a cultural lens and from a personal lens as well. So, we’re excited to bring on more guests, as we push out for more bookings.  And we can’t wait to see how that grows as a voice.

So, we’re excited, to explore more conversations on the culture niche, where, you know, it’s really the intersection of creativity and culture and what that means for various people across all industries.

Jackie Ferguson: That’s very exciting. I know the, the episode with Jazzy Jeff was awesome and I’ll look forward to listening to some more.

Nichelle let’s talk about who inspired you to work as hard as you do between, you know, what you’ve done in the industry, all of the volunteer things that you do. And now, you know, starting this podcast. Who inspired you to work as hard as you do?

Nichelle Pace: I’m definitely inspired by the women in my family. You know the creative side to me comes from my mother. I grew up, she painted. So, all of her paintings were around the house.

I had a sketchbook, she had a sketchbook, always, you know, albums, music, you know, every day, every Sunday, cleaning the house, you know, the, that the reminiscent of Sunday cleaning and, and, and the, the big record player that sat up between, my grandmother’s house and my mother’s house. So, I’m inspired creatively. That came from my mother.

In terms of just helping people. That came from my grandmother. She was always, you know, the helper taking people in or she was always the one we all went to, whether it was my uncles, my mother, myself, my kids, you know, when they need a counselor or when they needed support. And she was straight, no chaser, rest her soul. She lived to be 96. In terms of just personal inspiration from a creativity standpoint, those are some of the people that have inspired who I am as a person.

But in terms of working in the challenge, you know, I’m also, I’m inspired, but I’m more motivated by the need to change. The culture and society for my children and being a mother. So, they don’t have to deal with the hard things that I’ve had to deal with. You know, so being a mother inspires me to change, the culture and the society and the shift that we’re seeing, and be a part of that too, to make sure they don’t have to go through the same struggles, you know?

And then the final part of who inspires me are the haters. You know, for every door that was closed in my face for every person that said, no, you’re talking too loud for, you know, every person that wanted me to shrink to fit into their space, or who didn’t think I was, you know, who would use my intellectual and creative capital to make them money, but then not give me the recognition or the promotion or the respect. That also is a motivation for me and that just doesn’t go for people that were, like I said before, not of color, that also goes unfortunately to people in the space that were of color that may have closed those doors.

You know, I went through, there was a time where I was going to be a senior director at a quote unquote multicultural shop. Accepted a job offer, had great interviews. It was wonderful. You know, it was all excited. Like, yeah, I’m working for people of color. I’m working with a diverse team, you know, had great interviews with the VP, the chief creative director, like her, hire her. All right. I accept the offer. Oh. Before you start going and meet the president. Was not nice. Was not a nice interaction and to look across the room and see somebody that I would consider of my own culture, treat me like that. That was also motivation for me. You know, I have to be a better representation in this space.

You’re not representing right now, so again, those that have slammed a door in my face, they are also are motivators to work harder and to work smarter and examples of the leaders that I do not want to be. You know, I don’t just want to mentor. Other young women of color.

I take pride in mentoring, also people that are not of color because they need to be able to see us as leaders as well. So, I think it’s crucial, that yes, I love mentoring young women of color, but I’ve also mentored a young white women that I love to death, who counted on me to lead them.

but I think it’s crucial for. the next generation, when we’re out there mentoring, you know, as people of color that we are inclusive in our mentorship. So, then that changes the mindset of the next generation of what leadership looks like, because they’re going to have that ingrained in their memory.

Well, she was the best leader I had and she was a black woman, so that’s important for me as well. So those are the different avenues that I get my motivation from

Jackie Ferguson: Nichelle. I love that. Thank you for sharing that.  Tell us, and I love asking this question. Tell us something about you that not a lot of people know.

Nichelle Pace: Well, I auditioned and when I was in my twenties for Stomp, and I actually made, it was 2000 people in New York. We were everywhere out in this courtyard where to audition before you could go in the studio, and I actually made it down to the final 200 and they called me to do an international cast and go to Japan and I had to turn it down.

Cause I didn’t want to leave my oldest son who was like, barely one at the time, but I actually auditioned for Stomp and made the Stomp cast. I had the bruises to show and I lost both my big toe nails for a minute from stomping and boots from that two-day audition.

Jackie Ferguson: Wow. And then Nichelle, wow, I so enjoyed this conversation from, you know, the perspectives that, you know, deep care and concern, which were just so awesome to see in any industry, but especially around diversity, equity and inclusion, but what Nichelle, do you want to leave our audience with today? As we start to wrap up?

Nichelle Pace: I just want to leave folks with you know, we’re going to get fatigued in us.  I’m actually sitting here looking for a therapist on my phone, but, just within these struggles within these battles, make sure to take the time for you. It’s okay to say no, it’s okay to shut it down. If you, if you need to regroup, cause you’re going to need to, sometimes we have to make a conscious effort to step back away from this fight, if you will, from going on these journeys of, pushing for a more diverse and equitable and inclusive society and it, it can be exhausting. it’s okay. I want to leave people with the fact that it’s okay to be fatigued. It’s okay to want to scream and throw your hands up and cry. And just like, I can’t do this anymore. It’s okay to have those frustrated, frustrating feelings and, and work yourself through. Those emotions. So, don’t run for them and embrace them and take the time you need.

I think especially for people of color, and more and more, I, there’s more awareness for us, to have a certain level of, mental health and taking care of ourselves from a mental and emotional standpoint. I’d like to see more of that because it’s going to take mentally sound people to continue this fight. So, I like to impart with people to make sure you take the time for you.

your health is your wealth as the old cliche goes. So, making sure that within the struggles within this fight, take time for the joy, because that’s really what we’re fighting for is to be free, to have joy in all its shapes, forms and facets, and for our children to have joy, that is, you know, unlimited.

And that doesn’t have a ceiling, that doesn’t get put in a box. so, you know, take time to have that joy in your life, as well in between, the fight. Great advice.

Jackie Ferguson: Great advice. Thank you for that, Nichelle. Thank you so much for being on our show today. I have really enjoyed every moment of this conversation. Tell our listeners how they can get in touch with you.

Nichelle Pace:  You can always find me on LinkedIn, Nichelle Pace. and then you can, find our company we’re Brand Enchanting on every platform on Facebook,  Instagram and Twitter. You can find us at brandenchanting.com. You can also find us at thecultureniche.com and the culture niche podcast, which is streaming on all platforms.

Jackie Ferguson: Nichelle. Thank you for spending some time with us today. Again, I really enjoyed it.

Thanks for being here.

Nichelle Pace: Absolutely. Absolutely. I love having this conversation with you today, Jackie. Thanks for the opportunity.

Full Episode Transcript

Diversity Beyond the Checkbox is presented by The Diversity Movement and hosted by Jackie Ferguson. For more information including the latest webinars and other DEI content, head over to TheDiversityMovement.com. Podcast production by Earfluence.

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