Yes, Black Consumer Affinity Matters

For over a century, brands have had the opportunity to connect and cultivate relationships with the BIPOC community. Unfortunately, many brands are missing out on this opportunity and the consequences could potentially be severe.

This article is about the addressable market of African American consumers and the importance for brands to understand their transformative impact on digital media and technology platforms.

As the digital world continues to evolve, African Americans have found innovative ways to leverage its power and shape the narrative around their experiences. This demographic has been particularly quick to adopt new digital formats and channels such as social media, podcasts and streaming services to create and promote their own content. This newfound access to digital tools and platforms has empowered African Americans to control their own stories and connect with others who share their interests and cultural values.

Digital formats have become a powerful platform for the African American community to connect and amplify their voices with greater adoption rates than the general population (there are multiple data sources you can refer to (McKinsey, Nielsen to quantify the gap). This shift has led to an unprecedented level of control over content creation, distribution and promotion which serve to inform, ignite and raise awareness.

This empowerment through digital platforms has also enabled African Americans to expand their reach and impact beyond traditional channels, providing a space for social and political advocacy, which has in turn fueled cultural expansion and societal influence.

‘African Americans are boldly used in the digital world to critique, connect, collaborate and create. With 47.4 million people, or 14% of the U.S. population, African Americans are leveraging their unfettered access to technology to broaden their reach and express themselves on their own terms,’ according to Nielsen’s 8th annual report in their Diverse Intelligence series titled From Consumers to Creators.

The Digital Lives of Black Consumers (2018) highlighted how black influence on the economy and pop culture has been amplified by their engagement with the digital universe and adoption of social media and technology platforms. This increased digital know how led to significant impacts on brands, elections and popular culture, with African Americans embracing everything from video streaming and podcasting to gaming and online shopping.

As a marketer, it is crucial to recognize and understand the transformative impact of this shift on African American communities and to prioritize meaningful engagement and collaboration with these audiences to drive impact and forward progress. The aforementioned Nielsen report also stated that African Americans are on the cutting edge of household device ownership.

Compared to the overall U.S. population and non-Hispanic whites, African Americans have household ownership of smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, wireless headphones, smart TVs, smartwatches, smart speakers, Internet to TV streaming devices and virtual reality devices. This higher ownership of household devices indicates a greater level of engagement with digital media and technology, which in turn uncovered new opportunities for African Americans to access and engage with various forms of digital content, including entertainment, news and social media. Additionally, it provides opportunities for brands to reach and engage with African American consumers across multiple digital channels and platforms.

Unprecedented buying power

For brands in the consumer electronics, finance and banking categories, failing to cultivate a relationship with African Americans means missing out on huge potential consumer base with unprecedented buying power. A significant market brands can tap into if they make the effort to connect.

For African American consumers, this means far more than a transactional relationship. This means building an authentic and culturally relevant human to brand connection. Brands which fail to do so risk coming across as tone deaf, culturally insensitive, or worse (all major turn offs for this discerning consumer cohort).

Building a relationship with the African American community cannot just be about boosting sales or improving brand image. It has to be about building a space for multicultural, multigenerational consumers to thrive. Brands which recognize this and make a genuine effort to connect and support the interests of the African American community and all other communities of color will be better positioned to succeed in the future, both financially and socially.

This is not a trend. The data is reflective of Black consumers’ affinity for cutting-edge technology, access to new information, and the ability to connect with and stay connected to the culture, wherever they are.

Black consumer affinity matters now more than ever.

Simply including a Black person in an advertisement is not enough to truly understand and resonate with African American consumers. It is important for companies to take the time to research and understand the cultural nuances and experiences of this demographic, and design their campaigns accordingly. This can involve partnering with multicultural agencies, African American influencers or cultural experts, conducting market research specific to this demographic, and developing messaging which speaks to the experience and values of African Americans.

This is not the year to reduce or exclude multicultural audience targeting or spending. So, when your CFO asks, ‘do we REALLY need to spend this much here?’, respond in kind with, ‘can we afford to ignore a $1.3 trillion opportunity?’




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