A Higher Purpose: Cheryl Overton on Egami Group’s Social-Impact Marketing

October 2, 2018

[egami group]
[egami group]

A word that’s featured prominently on the website and social media pages for Egami Group is “purpose.”

The New York-based multicultural marketing and communications company calls itself a “purpose-inspired agency.” Their motto is to “activate your brand on purpose.” They even recently sent out a tweet announcing a job opening by asking applicants to “share your purpose story.”

For the agency’s president, Cheryl Overton, though, “purpose” isn’t just about advertising a brand to an audience; it’s about embodying the needs and impulses of that audience.

“[Purpose] means intention, community and being interested in pulling cultural levers, be that of ethnicity, religion or any sort of life moment,” she says. “We’re very comfortable using those things we only tell ourselves or our friends and family and embedding them in marketing.”

During PRSA’s annual Anvil Awards ceremony on June 7, Egami’s vision culminated in receiving the Society’s PR Professional of the Year, which honors an individual or team. PRSA recognized the agency’s work with Procter & Gamble and BBDO Worldwide on “The Talk” — a short film about racial bias and the experience of being a black woman in America. The film, which also received a Silver Anvil (see Page 21) and an Emmy, was created as part of P&G’s relaunch of their “My Black Is Beautiful” initiative.

Strategies & Tactics caught up with Overton in her Manhattan office to discuss why working on “The Talk” was so meaningful to her and her agency, and how they plan to build on their success.

What does this recognition mean to you and your agency?

Having been in the business for 20 years, this is like winning an Oscar. It’s our peers — people we respect, look up to and work with every day — who are the ones helping to select the winner. To get that kind of honor and distinction from our role models, our colleagues and our friends is especially gratifying.

The award is a moment of pride, but really, it’s a moment of visibility. We’re not new. We’ve been around for 10 years. The great news is people now know our name.

How does “The Talk” align with Egami Group’s mission?

The campaign was about how a global company like P&G — who owns so many household brand names — sees the African-American woman as an important target audience.

But more than a target audience, they see her as a human, and they want to talk to her about her. They respect her definition of beauty, and they really want to create programs and services that serve and honor that.

The phrase “My Black Is Beautiful” is like a rallying cry. People just say it now. They don’t even necessarily think of it as a P&G program; they think of it as, “This is my mantra.”

However, we’re not exclusively a social impact agency. We do lotions and shampoos and things like that as well. We really do feel that brands have a purpose, and they can have a special relationship with consumers — if you can link a brand’s purpose with what a consumer really needs at the right time.

While “The Talk” is pitched at African-American women, the film can also be insightful for others too. What do you hope audiences learn from watching it?

For other audiences, whether they’re from different ethnic backgrounds or people from different countries, it really was about awareness and finding something that was universal enough — a parenting moment, a rite of passage. No matter where you’re from, there are instances of those.

We wanted people to have a sensitivity toward some things about black parenting. There are things black parents [must] confront that other parents don’t. I think we just wanted to share that humanity and raise that awareness.

“The Talk” also captures a seismic moment for a child, too, because, nine times out of 10, they’re coming home for the first time maybe having been called a name that they didn’t recognize. It may be the first time that they’ve felt othered and don’t really know why. It’s a moment when you grow up that you can’t come back from.

Shifting away from “The Talk,” how did you get your start in communications?

I started in this business doing pharma work and high science drug launches and things like that, which was fantastic training. I have this weird skill: I can take highly technical information and simplify it down.

While I was very much challenged and loved the rigor and the discipline [of the pharma work], I knew I wanted to do something that was a little bit more accessible. I really wanted to work on brands and campaigns that were not necessarily gate-kept by the professional, but something that people could touch and feel.

Since then, I’ve had a great opportunity to work on incredible brands. When I was at Edelman, I ran the Starbucks business in North America. I also worked on Unilever’s campaign for “Real Beauty”; I was sitting at the table when we decided it would be a campaign featuring real women, redefining their standards of beauty.

What does the future for both Egami and multicultural marketing look like?

What is happening right now in the world, and in America in particular, is that the minority is quickly becoming the majority. Multicultural marketing is no longer niche marketing. It’s now very much appreciated from a total market perspective, so we want to do even more of it, and we’d love to do it on a grander scale. And hopefully, this work on “The Talk” has prepared us for what’s to come.

Meet the Egami Group

Founded: 2007

Employees: 20

Services: Brand Strategy, Cultural Insights, Integrated Marketing, Influencer Marketing

Partners: Target, Verizon, P&G, MLB, KFC

Fun Fact: They got a social media shout-out from none other than Beyoncé after she learned they had a company outing at one of her shows.

Dean Essner

Dean Essner is the editorial assistant for PRSA’s publications. A former resident of Washington, D.C., he holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English from the University of Maryland. Email: dean.essner@prsa.org.


Chuck Bins says:

Congratulations again to Egami Group, and thanks for reminding us about the power of meaning to galvanize social media campaigns. Purpose is the passion that motivates action. Plug into purpose and there’s no need to persuade -- people will already be convinced.

Oct. 11, 2018

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