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Black History Month: An Annual Reminder of a Missed Marketing Opportunity

February 10, 2018    I   A. Bruce Crawley

For most U.S. brands, Black History Month should constitute a period wherein they conduct an annual review of a significant missed marketing opportunity...the national African-American consumer market.


Indeed, the more than 43.3 million black or African-American people in the country represent about 13.3 percent of the overall U.S. population, and analysts are projecting that national black spending power will grow to $1.5 trillion, by 2021.


Yet, only $2.24 billion (2.98%) of the $75 billion spent by brands on television, print, Internet and radio advertising, each year, is spent with media focused on black audiences. With the rush to place the ubiquitous, perfunctory, one-off, Black History Month ads, each year, you wouldn’t know it.


Given what the disproportionately low-wattage, black-targeted spend, throughout the rest of the year, tells us about marketing efforts to African-American consumer markets, there should probably be numerous heads rolling among members of corporate and institutional marketing teams, until this situation is rectified.


The industry-wide marginalization of the black U.S. consumer is especially curious when we recognize that, since 2010, the black U.S. population has grown 64 percent faster than the country, as a whole, and continues to be the country’s largest “racial minority group” (Hispanics/Latinos, by comparison, are a language group, comprised of a broad number of ethnicities and races, including persons of African descent).


These underfunded black audience marketing approaches are especially curious when we realize that Nielsen has reported that the percentage of black households earning $200,000+ increased 138 percent, from 2005 to 2013, outpacing the 74 percent rate of the total population.


Black Americans also happen to be significant consumers of traditional and “new” media. Indeed, African-American consumers over-index, as compared to mainstream households, in usage rates of broadcast TV and wired cable, and live in larger average households. They also over-index to whites in usage of Instagram (38% to 21%) and Twitter (27% to 21%), and have virtually the same usage pattern as whites on Facebook (67% to 71%).


With 68 percent of recent general audience survey respondents reporting that they need to read at least four online reviews before they can trust a business, it’s important to note that Nielsen has also found that 73 percent of whites and 67 percent of Latinos believe that blacks influence mainstream culture.


With such data supporting the logic of focusing brand advertising and communications budgets more strategically on black consumers, you might wonder why so many brands consider their black audience outreach complete, once they’ve placed the obligatory, annual, public service Black History ad or sponsorship.


Not smart.


Rather, brands that are truly committed to penetrating lucrative consumer markets, wherever they may be, regardless of consumer complexion, might begin to focus, instead, each February, on refining their annual strategic approach to the increasingly high-value black consumer segment.


That might, at year’s end, give insightful brands a more tangible reason to celebrate the month of February, than ever before.


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A. Bruce Crawley is president, CEO and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management, Inc. (M3M). Read More...

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