Tristan Walker believes two things that most other people don’t believe: that international culture is led by American culture, which is in turn led by black culture; and that all consumer packaging companies are doomed because they don’t respect their most important customers.
“A big frustration of mine is that the earliest adopting region in the world knows nearly nothing about the earliest adopting culture,” he said at our Southland conference, “and that discord just doesn’t make any sense to me.” Put another way: Silicon Valley plays host to many new technologies, but it doesn’t understand the culture adopting those new products.
He wants to change that with Walker and Company, a brand agency that might just become the Procter & Gamble for people of color, thanks to the ignorance and disrespect with which other brand agencies view what will eventually become the world’s largest consumer market. He explained why that might be the case by relaying his experience at a Walgreens store:
“I’m in aisle 14, the ethnic aisle — it’s not even really an aisle, it’s a shelf — then I have to reach to the bottom of that shelf for a package that’s dirty, and then there’s a photo of a 65-year-old bald black guy with a towel on drinking a Cognac,” he said, “and they assumed I should buy that product. That entire second-class citizen experience needs to go, especially considering how much money we spend on that stuff, how culturally influential we are, and, along with Latinos and Asians, we’re going to be the majority of the country in the next 20 or 30 years.”
Walker has recounted that experience before while pitching his startup to venture capitalists. According to him, many laughed at the anecdote and were then surprised when he showed them a slide with a picture of the product in question and then showed them the actual box meant to encapsulate everything Walgreens thinks a black consumer might want in a card.
It’s hard to think of anything that screams “market opportunity” louder than that experience, from the horrendous card to the disbelief that met Walker whenever he shared this story with investors. No wonder he believes most of his competition will be out of business soon.