Every February, marketers pour everything they have into reaching out to African American consumers for Black History Month. Those that aren’t also engaging African Americans during the remaining eleven months are ill-advised. Black consumers are a trend-setting, significant growth factor in our economy; savvy marketers work diligently year-round to connect with them.
African American Influence in the Market
This past September, Nielsen released a report –Increasingly Affluent, Educated and Diverse—that broke down the viability of the African American audience as relevant consumers, and as a defined segment of the population. Here are five (5) key takeaways:
- At 45.7 million strong, the nation’s Black population grew 17.7% from 2000 to 2014, which is 35% faster than the total population and double the 8.2% growth rate of the White population. The growth rate of the Black population is partly attributed to the surge in Black immigration from the Caribbean, Africa and some European countries, making the overall population incredibly diverse.
- African-Americans are widely recognized as avid consumers of all media types, particularly television, music and social media. Compared to all Americans, African-American adults spend 42% more time watching TV, 13% more time on a PC, 15% more time on a smartphone, and 4% more time listening to the radio than any other demographic. This is a huge business opportunity for the media industry and advertisers!
- The growth in African American household incomes has been substantial and it is expected to continue as more African Americans are thriving in good jobs. African-American income growth rates outpaced those of non-Hispanic Whites at every annual household income level above $60,000.
- Education attainment has also skyrocketed with a 70% increase in the number of Blacks graduating from high school in 2014. College enrollment rates were at 70.9%, a substantial increase from 59.3% in 2013. This is yet another indication that African American consumers will continue to grow and become even more influential to the market in the coming years.
- African-Americans have traditionally outdone the general market in spending. They spend millions on housing, food, healthcare, cars, and clothing. In addition, they love to be among the first with the hottest and latest trends. For this reason, Black consumers are increasingly viewed as trendsetters and influencers across the U.S. mainstream. What they buy are often statements of their culture, lifestyle, traditions, and identities. This is a huge business opportunity for consumer goods companies that have yet to tap this market. Those that have will build brand loyalty for generations to come.
Marketing Beyond Black History Month
Black History Month is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans, but it is also a time to recognize diversity and embrace it in our culture as a whole. Companies that reach out to African Americans all year, and not just during Black History month, understand this sense of cultural pride. They make an ongoing, long-term investment in multicultural outreach that can break through the brand clutter and begin to connect more deeply with ethnic audiences.
Procter & Gamble’s successful “My Black is Beautiful” initiative is an excellent example of this. The campaign was designed to give African American women an authentic cultural voice that allows them to define and promote their own standard of what it means to be beautiful, while also forging a relationship between these women and several of P&G’s beauty brands. The program works because it taps Black women on an emotional level. Since its launch in 2006, the program has had a strong digital presence and social initiative directed towards nurturing Black self-esteem. Through marketing, it reaches them at a variety of touch points. It demonstrates how P&G products fit into women’s lifestyles and addresses their beauty needs. The program sells the products and creates a positive company image.
African American consumers gravitate to campaigns that reflect their culture. Messages that resonate in a way that is culturally authentic are what move them, but those messages must come across as genuine. They must be treated as a valued segment of the customer population, not just an afterthought.
Brands should identify ways to align their products or services with the lifestyle or needs of the African-American consumer market. By creating campaigns that speak to these consumers’ needs as well as their ambitions, brands can begin drawing in this unique segment across all channels. Most of all, it must be ongoing. If you are only targeting African Americans 28 days out of the year, you are missing out on an incredibly powerful consumer base that buys throughout the year.