African-Americans will, by 2015, have a buying power of $1.1 trillion. Yet the advertising world steadily ignores this valuable consumer. In hopes of providing an arena where marketers can tap into this market more effectively, Cabletelevison Advertising Bureau (CAB, a trade organization) has launched a new website called reachingblackconsumers.com.
The site provides research on the media consumption habits, demographics and purchasing power of African-Americans. More than 25 partners are providing information for the new site, including Nielsen, MRI, Scarborough, BET, Burrell Communications and Turner Broadcasting.
“The CAB is the only industry trade association that has a dedicated multicultural practice. As we have visited agencies and advertisers and even in preparing presentations ourselves, we recognized a void in the availability of timely insights and information on the Black consumer segment which was leading to marginalization of the segment in the advertising marketplace,” says Cynthia Perkins-Roberts, VP of multicultural marketing and sales development for CAB. “Television is the primary entertainment option for Black consumers as they consume 40% more television than the rest of the population. More than 60% of their viewing across all demos is cable programming. Additionally, cable has been the most aggressive television entity to create programming for this segment; from programming environments like BET and Centric to culturally relevant programs on general market networks like TBS, VH1 and GMC. In the absence of an African-American marketing advocacy group, it just made business sense for the CAB to step up and help ﬁll the information void about this valuable population segment.”
The site will also, says Perkins-Roberts, help advertisers better understand the African-American consumer. The reasons Black consumers are often forgotten is complex, she says. “There are a number of key reasons why the segment has been overlooked,” says Perkins-Roberts. A) Psychographics vs. Language – For many marketers, the reason to market differently to Hispanics and Asians, was the language difference. To these same marketers, the reason not to market to the African-American segment was because they speak English. Many marketers do not understand the role that psychographics plays in what Black consumers buy and why. This is harder to process than simple language translation and marketers often shy away from it, especially without the right insights. B) Civil Rights – In the absence of data, historically, media sellers have sold the Black consumer segment with a rationale that was often tied to Civil Rights. While Civil Rights is important, the marketplace is now such that we must transition from “good corporate citizenry”, to being able to show how effective marketing to this consumer impacts the bottom line. C) Lack of Advocacy – Other population segments in the advertising community have advocacy groups that have pushed out insights and information that have helped marketers keep their segments more “top of mind”. This type of organization does not exist in the Black population segment. And D) Facts vs. Assumptions – Unable to find relevant facts, marketers have either opted to not market effectively to the segment or have been marketing based on assumptions or not at all. Sometimes due to the lack of diversity in many companies, the assumptions have been based on media portrayals versus actual interaction with the segment and therefore is sometimes negatively skewed. “
Because the issue is so complex, there is much work to be done to refute misconceptions about the Black consumer. According to Perkins-Roberts, CAB has various goals for the new website. “Our immediate goal is to promote the facts to the marketing, business and even civic community that finally, there is a place where marketers can go to get timely, credible insights and information on the full spectrum of the Black population segment. We have gathered the best minds in advertising and marketing and the most credible research companies to help provide this information. Ultimately, ReachingBlackConsumers.com will help advertisers and publishers make better informed decisions on why and how they should market to Black consumers based on the business rationale and upside potential for their brands and businesses,” she says.
She continues, “Secondly, we want to lead the conversation on why marketing to the Black consumer segment is essential to the bottom line of businesses. We want to explain the trends that have emerged with the recently released Census data and show marketers the opportunity that they cannot afford to miss. Lastly, we want to continue to gather comprehensive, robust content and identify additional content partners that can assist us in moving the conversation forward.”