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Stone cold marketing

William Covington | 10/24/2012, 5 p.m.

The former owner of the Payless Market in South Los Angeles, gleefully described how the Black community's passion for malt liquor and his "unofficial grassroots advertising campaign" allowed him to significantly increase his store revenue within a few weeks and save his business.

The store had a license to sell beer and wine, but to compete with liquor stores in the area, he happened upon the idea of painting on the front of his store a large sign that shouted "Cold Beer" (although then-Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and community activist forced him to the remove it). He returned to the drawing board and put an old claw-foot bathtub filled with bottles of malt liquor under crushed ice in the middle of the store. The crude marketing ploy worked, and his malt liquor sales increased by 60 percent.

Today, the marketing of alcoholic beverages to African Americans, especially their youth has become a lot more sophisticated.

Drug, alcohol and tobacco counselor Tony Lavaughn Johnson, a former Shields for Families senior youth specialist, has heard it all.

References to alcohol beverages have been noted in rap music lyrics throughout its existence. Given that listening to music is the one of the primary leisure-time activities of adolescents, along with texting, and the fact that most teenagers know nearly all of the lyrics to their favorite songs, music is one potential source from which young consumers of popular culture receive information about alcohol.

Jay Z, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Ludacris are among the Hip Hop luminaries who have promoted alcohol, according to Johnson.

Montell Jordan's song, "This Is How We Do It" (1995) was in vogue particularly with gang members in the '90s.

Johnson said he would hold group therapy at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings locally and a lot of the clients would reminisce about how they would hang out with fellow gang members and consume malt liquor on Friday nights, blasting the song while drinking 40 ounces, a reference to the 40-ounce-size malt liquor bottles.
This is how we do it.
It's Friday night, and I feel all right
The party is here on the West side
So I reach for my '40, and I turn it up
Designated driver take the keys to my truck
Hit the shore 'cause I'm faded
Honey's in the street say, "Monty, yo we made it!"
It feels so good in my hood tonight
The summertime skirts and the guys in Kani
All the gang bangers forgot about the drive-by
You gotta get your groove on, before you go get paid
So tip up your cup and throw your hands up
And let me hear the party say
I'm kinda buzzed, and it's all because
(This is how we do it)
South Central does it like nobody does
(This is how we do it)
The song was a hit in the U.S and Europe for weeks, and Johnson also described how brewers would use it to market malt liquor to Blacks in France and Germany. American brewers in the past have used the Afro-German communities as test markets for their malt liquor, especially in Munich, Frankfurt and Cologne.