Tapping Into Black Buying Power

Marketers have long acknowledged the cool factor in being black. Couple that with black buying power — an estimated $761 billion — and African Americans with commercial influence make up a formidable group.

But the African American market remains underappreciated by marketers and advertisers. With all of its diversification, the African American market is continually seen as a monolithic group that can be addressed through mainstream media. Frustration over this view led veteran advertising and marketing specialists Pepper Miller and Herb Kemp to write What’s Black About It? (Paramount Market Publishing; $39.95) “The thing that most disturbed us is that many marketers think African Americans speak English so we don’t need to do anything special to talk to them,” says Kemp.

The most effective communications to the African American market are campaigns that highlight families and community strength, according to Miller.

A well-planned approach requires familiarity with the subsegments of the black population, says Kemp. The effort would have a positive impact on the return of investment for many marketers.

According to the 2005 Yankelovich MONITOR Multicultural Marketing Study, the African American market can be broken down into six sociobehavioral segments that reflect variations in age, economics, socialization, education, and culture:

Emulators (11%) are generally students with a median age of 17 who identify with young urban black trendsetters. They themselves are trendsetters but also have a need for the social and emotional reassurance of brands that most reflect status or achievement.

Seekers (19%) are older and less idealistic. They work part time or are temporarily unemployed. They seek popular image and status brands. Their median age is 40 with a median income of $18,000.

Reachers (24%) are slowly working toward the American dream. Often single parents who may also care for an elderly parent, this group wants products and services that give them the greatest value. They have a median age of 40 and a median income of $28,000.

Attainers (27%) have a more defined sense of self and a solid plan for the future. They want ideas and information that will increase their quality of life. They have a median income of $55,000 and a median age of 40.

Elites (5%) are upwardly mobile African Americans who live and work in a more mainstream environment but retain their cultural identity and allegiances. Marketers must appeal to this group through a broader range of campaigns. They have a median age of 46 and a median income of $113,000.

Conservers (14%) are an older segment with a median age of 67 and a median income of $38,000. They are set in their ways and are slow to adapt to the dynamism of popular African American culture. Mostly retired, their beliefs and values are deeply grounded in experience and wisdom, and it shapes their lives.