Remembering the Marketplace of the Midsouth

K97

From a former Mall of Memphis Marketing Director:

One thing (after reading your stories and comments by others) that I will remember. I was born and raised in California. And while I did work in the South previously, I was never so taken aback by the racism by some merchants I encountered at MOM. Being a "Yankee" I recall battling with the President of the Merchants Association. I had reviewed radio ratings and saw K-97 (a mainstream R&B station) was number one in adults in the Market. Further research showed the station had a high percentage of white listeners. I looked at MOM's radio buys and saw they have never bought any advertising time on that station. I wanted to change that and had to do battle with some of the merchants. I recall my final argument was "well, if you are going to stereotype then the black customers won't come in with credit cards or checkbooks...and I have yet to see a $20 bounce." They relented. I remember calling my ad rep at K-97 and told him I wanted to place a buy. He asked me how much and I told him "12". He told me that was a little low and I wouldn't get much air time. I laughed and said "12 thousand..not 12 hundred." He told me later he almost had a heart attack....after all these years MOM was buying and buying BIG.

I really believe that contributed to the huge upward swing in sales. We had a balanced ad effort going after all residents in the area....not just white. And that upward momentum continued for the time I was there and a bit afterward. I heard (not 100% positive) that the little Mom and Pop merchants pressured the Marketing Director that took my place to cut back on buys with K-97 and other "black" stations. And then the downward spiral of the Mall itself. Would we have remained successful had the Marketing plan not been altered? Doubtful. No matter how good a campaign any mall is only as good as its tenant mix. With many shutting down and anchors leaving no Marketing Director can save it. As merchants leave ad budgets get smaller (merchants pay for advertising through a mandatory lease clause). But I can say I would have fought hard against the guard towers, etc.


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