Multicultural Marketing: Reaching the African American Consumer

by Small Business Owner

One of American companies’ biggest mistakes? Not marketing to the African-American consumer properly, if not at all. As of 2008, the buying power of African-Americans was right at $913 billion according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia. They project this figure to rise to $1.2 trillion in 2013. Marketing departments should realize the dollar value of multicultural marketing, and the benefits of targeting this consumer group.

African-Americans are different from the general market in assessing company value. This community is more likely than Caucasians to purchase the product they feel is “the best”. They are very loyal consumers who appreciate companies that advertise creatively with respect to their culture and community. Alienating this group lies in advertisements that perpetuate easily avoidable traditional stereotypes.

Some untraditional or unique ways to market to this group may include:

  1. Sponsoring community events
  2. Hiring minorities for a diverse workplace
  3. Advertising in Black Media (TV, radio, and print)
  4. Word of Mouth through community & community leaders
  5. Starting charities, a donations-for-purchase program, or scholarships (African-Americans are more likely to buy from companies who give back)

The number of educated and middle-income African-Americans is also increasing both at a rate quicker than the general population. Households making $75,000 or more have increased 47 percent in the last five years based on the BET consumer research report “African Americans in 201.”  This is about 1.5 times faster than any other group according to the report’s cited Census data. Also, nearly half of African-American consumers are within the heaviest consumer spending ages of 18-49.

Purchasing patterns for this group remains rather constant. However, there is an increase in technological purchases for the community. Personal computer purchases rose 28% to $3.5 billion. Spending for consumer electronics increased 32% to $4.5 billion. The 2010 BET study further showed that 31% [about $39 billion] of African American spending is used to purchase computers, cell phones and electronics – higher than the general population.

African Americans Spend More On:

  • phone services
  • utilities
  • apparel
  • footwear
  • groceries

…and Less On:

  • eating out
  • entertainment
  • health care

African-Americans are highly reachable. Sixty-eight percent of all African-Americans are online –more than the general population– with half of them engaging in social networking. The 2009 Nielsen “African American Television Viewing Report” tells that African-Americans watch more TV than all other ethnicities. Eighty-one percent (from ages 13 to 74) watch Black-interest TV channels weekly. Companies should reach out to such media but know that African-Americans watch “mainstream” programming in conjunction. In fact the BET Report found that the top 3 Broadcast shows most watched by African-Americans are “American Idol”, “Dancing with the Stars”, and “NCIS”. On cable, however, the top shows are “Meet the Browns”, “House of Pain”, and “Tiny and Toya”.

One way to reach these consumers is by employing the help of marketing agencies that specialize in African-American consumer research. One such firm is the Hunter-Miller group whose slogan is “We know the African American market”. Quite straight to the point don’t you think? According to a African American case study they did for GM  African Americans and Latinos are more emotional; therefore, corporate advertising needs to be more personal. They state that African-Americans place high regard on culture, self-empowerment, and avoiding reinforcing stereotypes. The Hunter-Miller group is responsible for a recent commercial for GM’s Buick Enclave.

Carol H. Williams Advertising, located in New York, Oakland, Detroit, and Chicago. CHWA is another company that boasts its link to the African-American consumer– through “frame of mind” as well as “media vehicles”. They’ve done commercials for the U.S. Army, GM, Hewlett-Packard, General Mills, and Walt Disney World to name a few. They believe that the African-American consumer views the world and media in a different way than their General Market counterparts. They’ve won an extensive amount of awards for their services such as 5 “Addy Awards” and a Multicultural Marketing Excellence award from Johnson & Johnson Co.

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