Why ‘white label’ works for me

white label-3150732__340In a busy (noisy!) market-place, the absence of people vying for centre-stage is appealing. It may seem strange, given that the Chameleon (and me) is all about growing colours (aka being who you are) BUT as enablers, we do not need to be the ones ‘on show’.

Providing ‘white label’ services is actually the epitome of the chameleonic paradigm – the chameleon reflects colours, it does not impose them.

At consultachameleon, we can work behind the scenes to help you to develop YOUR content, YOUR materials, YOUR programmes and we promise to leave our brand out of it.

Of course, high quality speaks for itself and most of us are happy to recommend a great service, so if you believe that ‘sharing is caring’, we always appreciate new connections.

In fact, that’s how we prefer to ‘do’ business, afterall nothing articulates a job well done, than good old word of mouth. Check out our testimonials here.

Take a browse of the many (many) services we offer – white label or otherwise.  There’s sure to be something of interest for entrepreneurs and socially focused businesses.

 

Is ‘passing’ a thing of the past?

passingAre the days of ‘passing’ a thing of the past?

“We pass for what we are. Character teaches above our wills. Men imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath every moment.” (Emerson, 1841)

 

This article was written to celebrate ‘Black History Month’ and as such, I felt torn by the expectation of writing from a positive position and the compulsion to write about something that is real and feeling unsure, as the words fell onto the page, as to whether this article would be celebratory or positive at all.  Logically, I want to proclaim how great things are and how much has changed for us as black women in business, yet perhaps I am unsure whether ‘things’ have changed, or whether it is US who have changed.  For that reason, I found myself writing the word ‘perhaps’, both as a reflective endeavour but also by way of inviting the reader to also engage in the inquiry. There is no denying our growth and consequently there is now a plethora of female, black role models, to inform a broad frame of reference, yet it is perhaps inevitable that there have been casualties along the way.  Perhaps though, we can now relax and be who we are, without the pressure of being ‘strong’, of being ‘superwomen’, of sacrificing parts of ourSELVES, to be so-called successful in business?  Perhaps also, we can release the grip of ownership and competition and have a quiet confidence in the fact that there is room for us all.  Perhaps.

2We have a collective history and we each also have our individual stories.  Stories of rejection, marginalisation, invisibilisation and isolation, of inner and outer conflict and defence, of maltreatment and abuse, of sacrifice and of blood, sweat and tears.   As we celebrate our success, we wear our experiences as badges of honour, collected along the way as we walked the path, some even creating new paths and new generic milestones to celebrate and aspire to.  Few of us have travelled a smooth journey and this instigates a precious independence in us.  As black women in business, we can stand together in solidarity and we can also tear each other down, both consciously and unconsciously.

I recall once, being told that my achievements in academia were related to my skin tone – that I had been afforded a ‘fast pass’ access that a darker-hued woman would not be given.  I also remember a separate occasion, where I was told that I would be chosen in a job interview setting, not due to my own merit but because my so-called ‘fair’ skin tone would earn me the position.  On both occasions, I remember feeling hurt and offended; that my hard-earned achievements were being unfairly translated into fruits of favour and privilege.  Over the years, I have managed to balance feeling that my efforts are being wrongfully dismissed and belittled, with a deeper understanding of the contributory societal and historical context.

mixedIn my own entrepreneurial journey, I chose to go against well-meaning advice and base my business on the notion of chameleonism, a concept I first started writing about in 2010, which is borne from my mixed-race identity and the subsequent resilience and flexibility that necessitated my survival.  Central to my business, is a transient brand-identity, which many told me was a bad business decision but which felt perfectly natural to me, even though I knew, having studied brand management as part of my first degree in Advertising, Media and Marketing, that they were right! In many academic studies, ‘the chameleon effect’ refers to mimicry and ‘behaviour matching’, although it is also recognised as having social value.  For some, its uncertainty raises some anxiety, particularly in relation to professional identity, with one of my ‘embrace the chameleon’ workshop attendees, stating that they did not want to be ‘professionally naked’ and that “to be chameleon, is to risk being invisible”.

This leads me to the theme of this article, that of ‘passing’ or ‘passé’. One author, Marcia Dawkins, proclaims that racial passing “suggests secrecy and complicates a politics of visibility”, interestingly, Dawkins titled her book, published in 2012, ‘clearly invisible’.  Dawkins refers to the popularity of passé in literature and media and the common association that ‘mixed-race’ equals confusion, which is a perception I have defended against for as long as I can remember.

mixed girlI can see the temptation for people to ‘pass’, having experienced continually being asked how I ‘see myself’ (i.e.: as black or white), as though I had a choice. I have previously written about mixed-race parentage being a creative embodiment in itself, paradoxically straddling two or more racial identities, which for me is what led to my ‘chameleonic perspective’.  When asked ‘how I saw myself’, I sensed that this was not out of interest in me but to serve the purpose of other people’s anticipated communication and relationship with me, which aligns with an historical perspective, shared by Emerson in 1841 that, “A man must consider what a blindman’s-buff is this game of conformity.  If I know your sect, I anticipate your argument”.  In relation to ‘passing’, there is no doubt a sense of being an ‘outsider on the inside’, which could be a powerful position to be in, especially in the context of business.  In relation to racial passing, Dawkins poignantly comments that, “To take the analogy of passing and airbrushing a step further, we can say that passing is all about who has the airbrush and who has the latest version of photoshop!”

I have written in a previous article, about the massive shift in power dynamic and the rise (and rise and RISE) of black women in business, especially in entrepreneurial spaces.  The power fuelling the new order is palpable and one could claim that we are very firmly holding the airbrush and that we indeed do have the latest version of photoshop.

Rachel D passingThis was evident in more recent years, with the ‘incident’ involving Rachel Dolozal, who caused outrage (and perhaps also incited some humour) in 2015, as she allegedly misrepresented herself as black, sparking global conversation about racial ‘passing’.  Of course, as a ‘black woman’, Dolozal led an organisation that she likely would not have, had she not been passing.  Indeed, in this instance, it could be said that this was less a case of ‘passing’ and more one of manufacture, which would imply much more effort on the part of the individual. This example, unusual in that it was white-to-black, could symbolise a move towards there no longer being a need for ‘passing’ from black-to-white, whether intentional or otherwise.  It is not a new thing for black women to be appropriated in some respects but not necessarily in relation to professional life.  In any case, this type of ‘passing’ is not just about “mere disguise”, as Dawkins highlights, it is “about rhetoric – the symbolic social construction and reconstruction of identity within particular situational constraints and social networks”.

Traditionally, ‘passing’ was motivated by need, rather than desire, sometimes a need to survive or safeguard self or others.  It seems that a related matter is that of assimilation, not ‘passing’ per sé but an adoption of certain characteristics, as highlighted in a previous article, where I recalled a CEO, who I interviewed for my doctoral studies, becoming aware of her voice lowering several octaves, whilst in male-dominated management meetings.  She had felt the need to somehow become ‘more male’, to fit in, to be accepted and perhaps most importantly, to be heard.  Clearly, this is not ‘passing’, she presented as a woman and there was no misunderstanding of that but one could argue that ‘assimilation’ and ‘passing’ do share some common tenets.

grey blackIs ‘passing’ a thing of the past? Is it now redundant in its function? Perhaps. If not, is that a social disorder, or a personal dysfunction? Perhaps we are moving closer to the notion of ‘womanity’, as coined by Alice Walker, whereby we are able to express the facets of ourselves, racially and culturally as women, in a cohesive and harmonious way. Perhaps this is the ‘something’ to celebrate right now.

NB: this is an article for a forthcoming edition of ‘Highly Fabulous Women’ but it was felt that there is a need for it to be ‘aired’ now. 

Thank you Dr. Patricia Benjamin, for your support and understanding.

To disappoint, to surprise and to blow my last chance…..

imageSeems like I’m upsetting a lot of people nowadays.  I receive so many (so many) emails from people telling me that ‘frankly they’re surprised’, or that they are disappointed; then there are those who threaten to leave with a melodramatic ‘that’s it, I’m leaving…’ plonked in my inbox.  And it doesn’t end there, there are those who implore that I help them…..’I really need your help, Joanna’ shows up to tempt me into exploring what it is that has led to such a request.

Sometimes the pleading, cajoling, chastising and ultimatums actually do glean a response from me…but I admit that more often than not, they don’t…I don’t.  It’s a shame because I know from my own experience of being at the beginning of the funnel building process, that this is pretty standard and even those that have applied the rules of ‘writing copy that sells’ fall into the filter that my cynicism has created.  It’s a useful process to reflect upon being the recipient of what I could potentially create myself…..and has exposed me to consider what I do not want to convey of myself or my business.  I’m also aware that I am the real culprit in this.  Happy to sign up for the freebie that led to the emails in the first place and now here I am blogging away about it!

It’s not intentional….and I do know that what is most likely on offer is of interest to me…I don’t just sign up for anything.  It’s more that stubborn child in me that will only go for something if it appeals and I choose to venture there.  Catch me in a particular mode and the slightest whiff that I am being pushed into a corner, brings that child to the surface and I stubbornly scroll on by.  That and the lack of time I have to trawl through chunky propositions before reaching the part that tells me whether I’m actually interested.  With this in mind, it would probably work better if the message in the subject box was much more direct….something like:  ‘50% off that programme you need! Joanna’ or ‘read on for the book that will change your life’.   In fact, scratch that….I think that one of the irritants is the level of familiarity.  Referring to me by name, as though we are friends…when in reality, it is only because I signed up for something that my first name is even in the equation!

I don’t mean to be harsh….

In reality, this resistant mindset was initiated more than two decades ago.  Even though I have a sound degree in Advertising, Media and Marketing, I chose not to pursue a career in that field.  I was left feeling that there was something disingenuous between me and the professional arena that I couldn’t seem to navigate or consolidate.  However, I kind-of-always-knew that I’d revisit this area of knowledge and I also always knew that this wouldn’t happen until I found my voice.  I guess that time has come and what better place to express it than via my own blog…?

Anyway….back to the subject.  There’s no doubt that automation is incredibly useful and of course creating a message that reaches the masses yet maintains the required intimacy is no mean feat….hence the option to apply AB testing.  Hmmmm…..almost instantaneous with the thought about  any type of ‘testing’ is that feeling in my gut….the one that led me to write this blog.  Yet to function in our  ever evolving technoworld, I need to engage with this.  Work to do without a doubt.

Why I struggle with target markets……

…….I really do.  In spite of having secured a BA (hons) in Advertising, Media and Marketing and a complete understanding of the importance of target markets, I struggle.  In fact the basis of consultachameleon is of being non-specific, non-targeted.   Certainly in the field I am interested in, that of personal and professional development, the concepts I promote apply to everyone.  Everyone.  Now that’s a somewhat broad and pretty ill-defined sector.

image

I suppose I should say at this point, that if you want to make money…quickly….you do need to define your target market.  You do need to identify the problem that your market is facing and be their solution.  You do need to speak their language and speak it in the places that they frequent. You do.  Being specific with your target market and being clear about who your core product is tailored towards is absolutely key….and is probably inextricably linked to one’s professional goal focus.  Perhaps this is the reason for my not-having-traveled-as-far-as-I-should-have reputation, which I attribute to the scenic route I’ve chosen, see that other blog post here: https://consultachameleon.com/2015/03/20/five-ways-to-value-the-scenic-route/

I can sense that this post may appear contradictory….after all, as someone who helps people to develop their brand, to be goal focused and to be clear about who they want to be of service to ……. what am I playing at, bemoaning target markets?

However it may appear to the reader, I cannot lie.  I struggle with it.  As a creative, free flowing type of being, I simply cannot let go of my belief that there are some common core elements to working with people that mean that although one size doesn’t fit all, much of what I do is transferable to many.  In fact, there are some key ingredients that go into everything….a bit like flour in cakes…. and because of this, my investment is in staying true to the chameleon brand….and it’s ability to shift and blend according to need, keeping a level of consistency in each colour.  As with most things….and especially in the world of the chameleon, this is all open to change and transience is unavoidable, so watch this space….will I fall for the calling of a target market or two?  🙂