Why Marketers Must Stop Ignoring Black Consumers

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African-American consumers, long ignored by most marketers while they have devoted a growing number of dollars to targeting Hispanics, would do well to start getting more inclusive in their advertising strategies, according to a new Nielsen report.

"African-American consumers are making gains and upending outdated stereotypes on multiple fronts from education to income to social media and civic engagement," the report states, "becoming increasingly affluent, influential and culturally diverse.”

The report says from 2000 to 2014, the nation's Black population has grown more than 35% more quickly than the total population and at more than double the 8.2% growth rate of the white population.

While lots of data has focused on the rising growth of Hispanics in the U.S., both in the past decade and projection for the future, this report points out that by 2060 the Black population will increase from 45.7 million to 74.5 million and make up 17.9% of the U.S. population.

The report says not only is this Black consumer base getting younger, but also more educated and part of that is being bolstered by an influx of affluent and educated Black immigrants which is "amplifying" the buying power and "expanding influence across a wide spectrum of services and goods in the U.S. mainstream."

The report adds that there is a growing number of Black consumers who are "digitally enabled and culturally connected," and as a result, the Black consumer story is finally starting to receive much overdue attention.

While the report touches on the entire Black consumer segment, it focuses more specifically on those with annual household incomes of $75,000 or more. The report points out that more affluence Black consumers are growing faster than non-Hispanic whites across all income segments above $60,000, and "that's a story worth sharing."

Here are some of the highlights of the report:
•       The percentage of Black high school graduates enrolled in college increased last year to 70.9%, exceeding that of both whites and Hispanics. Blacks are also making progress in science, technology, engineering and math careers and this will fuel "steady income increases and help secure their place in the future U.S. workforce."
•       Between 2005 and 2013, the largest increase for African-American households occurred in the number of households earning over $200,000, with an increase of 138% compared to a total population increase of 74%.
•       The average age of African-Americans in the U.S. is 31.4, compared to 39 years for non-Hispanic whites and 36.7 years for the total population. Black millennials and younger are creating mainstream trends in music, TV, movies and in other areas of our culture.
•       Black immigrants now account for 8.7% of the nation's Black population, or one in every 11 African-Americans. That's nearly triple the share in 1980. A large percentage of them are highly educated and in the upper income range.
•       African-Americans are socially-connected consumers and 40% of Blacks expect brands to support social causes.
•       In the area of media consumption, African-American adults over 18 watch 42% more traditional TV weekly than the total population. Some 91% or 31 million of U.S. Blacks listen to the radio weekly and 11% with household incomes of $100,000.
•       Black households with incomes of more than $100,000 are more likely than non-Hispanic whites with similar incomes to say it is "very" or "somewhat important" to find information about news or current events via social media.
•       Affluent Blacks with incomes of $70,000 or more make more trips to the discount, convenience and department stories than non-Hispanic whites.
The report describes African-Americans as being "voracious" media consumers, particularly as more TV programming begins to feature Black casts and focuses on Black cultures. And some of the most popular shows on broadcast primetime television watched by large numbers of African-Americans – Empire, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, Black-ish – are also among the most popular for all audiences.

Other heavily watched regularly scheduled broadcast network TV shows by African-Americans last season included Grey's Anatomy, Gotham, American Crime, The Good Wife, Person of Interest, Stalker, Law and Order: SVU, Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Carmichael Show.

African-Americans watch 51 hours and 23 minutes a week of traditional TV, 42% more than the total population. They also listen to more radio and spend more time on the computer than the total population, as well as more time using their smartphones.

As income increases among African-Americans, so does media consumption, significantly. African-Americans with an annual income of $75,000 watch 315 hours and 39 minutes of traditional TV each month, compared to 219 hours the total population.

Marketers should also focus on reaching high income Blacks via radio. The report finds that 94% of African-American radio listeners with household incomes over $75,000 are reached by radio each week in the Top 50 Black DMAs. And 93% of African-American radio listeners are college graduates and reached by radio each week in those Top 50 Black DMAs.

The report does not compare Blacks to Hispanics in the U.S., the previous Nielsen studies have shown that African-Americans watch more traditional TV than Hispanics.

In the online area, the report finds that Blacks with incomes of $100,000 or more who shop digitally are 27% more likely to buy movie tickets, 17% more likely to buy groceries and 12% more likely to buy wine than non-Hispanic whites with similar income.

The top mobile apps used by African-Americans with incomes over both $75,000 and $100,000 are Facebook and Instagram. Other popular apps for each income group include Twitter, YouTube, Google Search and Gmail.

In the area of purchasing, 34% more African-Americans earning $100,000 or more say they will pay extra for a product that is consistent with the image they want to convey than non-Hispanic White consumers.

One example of that, 51% of upper income Blacks say they are willing to pay more for a flight in order to fly their favorite airline.

The report concludes by urging marketers to begin fostering relationships with the young Black consumers if they haven't already done so.

"The social and cultural clout of African-Americans is quickly rising and will continue to do so for decades to come," the report says. "As marketers and advertisers compete for the attention of young and influential consumers, developing longer brand relationships with Black consumers must be an indispensable component for this goal."

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