How to Reach African-American Consumers | Adweek How to Reach African-American Consumers | Adweek

How to Reach African-American Consumers


While some brands have done a good job in reaching African-American consumers, others have a lot of room for improvement. Cynthia Perkins-Roberts, vice president of diversity marketing and business development for the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, said there's an opportunity for marketers to specifically target African-Americans via cultural insights that are "baked into" creative since the beginning and not implemented as an afterthought. Perkins-Roberts agreed with recent research that African-American households are growing in terms of education and income. She said half of African-American consumers are within the "heaviest consumer spending ages," which represents another great opportunity for marketers. Excerpts from that conversation with Perkins-Roberts are below:
Brandweek: Should all marketers go out of their way to specifically target African-Americans? How?
Cynthia Perkins-Roberts:
As with all marketing, it is important for the client to assess if the demographic target is a fit for their product from a business perspective. That said, there may be some categories and brands that are not relevant to the African-American segment. When marketers are assessing the fit, though, they should be open-minded and look beyond their current consumers [to] learn about the African-American lifestyle.
In order for marketers with established recognizable brands to maximize the impact on the African-American consumer, it is important that campaigns have creative and a strategy that is relevant to the segment. This is best accomplished when the African-American component is “baked in” at the beginning and not added as an afterthought. This practice is happening increasingly, but unfortunately not often enough. That is not to say that general-market creative never works, but as with any marketing campaign, the goal is to motivate consumers to buy goods and services. Within the African-American segment that is best achieved when cultural insights are expressed via the creative and the advertising environment. 
BW: Which marketers are doing a good job addressing the demo right now? Why?
Off the top of my head, I would say McDonald’s, State Farm, Ford, Allstate and Procter & Gamble brands like Tide, Crest and Olay. American Airlines and Coca-Cola seem to be accelerating their efforts as well. These marketers recognize the current market share and upside potential that the African-American segment can have on their bottom lines. They have committed dollars [to] the segment and have not only placed targeted television, radio and print ads, but have also come up with innovative strategies to reach [African-Americans].  Additionally, these marketers have successfully used their creative to show positive portrayals of African-Americans, while being both aspirational and inspirational.  
BW: Do you think many brands are wary of addressing black consumers because they're afraid of getting it wrong and thus offending them?
That may have been the case several years ago, but now there are too many examples of brands that have marketed to the segment successfully and reaped benefits for their efforts. Marketers who lack familiarity with the segment can align with talented agencies, researchers and consultants that can help them connect their brands with the black consumer.

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