A few things every brand should know about marketing to African-Americans

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A few things every brand should know about marketing to African-Americans

A group that’s wanting to be heard

Rapid expansion of the African-American middle class over the past several decades has significantly increased the purchasing power and value of African-American consumers (U.S. Department of Commerce). This article provides 10 important factors to consider when designing a marketing plan for products and services useful to the African-American community. The broad goal is to respect the African-American consumer’s mainstream aspirations while being sensitive to their distinct social history.

Leave stereotypes at the door
Popular culture and broadcast media tend to foster stereotypes which do not hold true in real life. In December 2007, the findings of a GMI Poll conducted online among 1,285 African-Americans found that having a lot of bling doesn’t boost one’s social status in the African-American community. A stable family and a solid education were quoted as most important to social standing. Clothes, jewelry and cars were all ranked at the bottom of the list. “This study debunks the myth that African-Americans are only interested in fancy jewelry and tricked-out cars,” says Lawrence Martin Johnson Pratt , host of the Technocolorradioshow , a technology information radio show for African-Americans in New York on WHCR-FM. “Nearly everyone surveyed said status and respect in the African-American community centers around family, education and career. Despite how we are portrayed on TV and in Hollywood, members of the African-American community have the same hopes and aspirations as every other American.” So be careful not to fall into the stereotype trap when embarking on a marketing campaign intended to appeal to African-Americans.

Ask yourself: what’s black about it?
When creating a marketing or advertising campaign, ask yourself this simple question: what’s black about it? Does this advertising depict something African-Americans can relate to or identify with, minus stereotypical images?

Look beyond the English language
The rapid growth of the Hispanic market has led to decreasing marketing dollars being spent on reaching African-Americans. Too many advertisers and marketers assume African-Americans will respond to any message simply because it is delivered in English.

Understand African-American living
Most African-Americans live, worship and socialize with each other, and many do so by choice. The desire to live black also means that many African-Americans read African-American newspapers and magazines, visit African-American Web sites and listen to African-American radio. A one-size-fits-all marketing approach signals to many African-Americans that the way they live and know life does not require any special understanding or consideration of their culture or distinct social history.

Recognize the value of the African-American influence
As a group, African-Americans have been, and continue to be, one of the primary trendsetters of society. Marketers who consciously establish a relationship with this lucrative yet underserved market will reap significant long-term rewards from a loyal, influential customer base.

Acknowledge African-American cultural heritage: you’re not an insider
Understand your own internal challenges
Build loyalty over time

Understand differences within the African-American community

Leverage online research

According to a study by Packaged Facts, African-American buying power is expected to exceed $1.1 trillion in 2012. The U.S. Census predicts that the single-race African-American population will reach 61.4 million by 2050. So if you do your homework diligently and equip yourself with the right expertise and online tools, you can better understand this community and put all chances of success on your side.


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