Marketers Not Getting African-American Consumers

Discussion
Aug 16, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Tom Joyner’s nationally syndicated radio show, The Tom Joyner Morning Show, reaches more than eight million primarily African-Americans consumers, in 115 markets so he knows a little something about connecting with this audience.


He also knows, he told USA Today, that many companies targeting African-Americans through mainstream advertising are making “a huge mistake.”


While acknowledging that mainstream media “works up to a point,” Mr. Joyner said, marketers should “specifically and unashamedly direct their efforts to an African-American audience.”


An example of this type of segment focus is clear, said Mr. Joyner, when you look at efforts made to attract Hispanic consumers.


“That’s very smart, and I understand. They (marketers) have to specifically reach out to the Hispanic market,” he said. “They don’t always understand the same is true for us. Look at all the black advertising agencies that have folded in the last couple of years because they are targeting us through mainstream agencies. I don’t see anything racial in it. They are just being stupid and making a huge mistake.”


Mr. Joyner also said it’s important to understand that what many perceive as advertising and other communications targeted to African-Americans are focused on a different audience altogether.


A case in point was Anheuser-Busch’s popular “Whassup” commercials. “The Whassup ad was not directed at the African American, but at the mainstream audience.” The spots, said Mr. Joyner were “going after that hip-hop generation, an attitude which crosses all ethnic lines. It’s not black people who are keeping hip-hop alive.”


Stereotypes about African-Americans’ media usage has real consequences that may result in marketers missing out on this nearly trillion dollar consumer market.


Many, according to Mr. Joyner, believe African-Americans are not using the Internet in great numbers. “Don’t let anyone fool you that black folks aren’t on the Internet. Oh, yes we are. … And it’s paying off.”


Moderator’s Comment: Is Tom Joyner correct in his view that marketers have yet to figure out the African-American consumer market and how to capture
it? What must retailers and other consumer marketers do to accomplish the goal of attracting and keeping African-Americans customers?

George Anderson – Moderator

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17 Comments on "Marketers Not Getting African-American Consumers"


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David Livingston
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

When I worked for a retailer, we approached marketing to African Americans with caution. We were always afraid we might offend someone. Of course, we are going to offend someone; that’s just part of business. But when it came to African Americans, we were extra cautious. So the best way to avoid offending anyone was just avoid marketing to them. Bernice said it best: “Americans have been so conscious, and guilt-ridden, about white treatment of black people for such a long time that they have gone to ridiculous extremes not to focus on them.”

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 6 months ago
I hate to pile on, but I got my brochure for the Hispanic Retail 360 Conference today. Lots of big companies will be there – Dollar General, Food Lion, HEB, Sears, Target, Meijer etc. There will be lots of high powered Hispanic marketing experts and speakers there too – nearly all of them non-Hispanic Anglos. Has it ever dawned on anyone to have an African American marketing conference? Would it be attended by the same companies and the usual group of conference speakers like Phil Lempert? Would all those white marketing managers at these Fortune 500 companies feel comfortable attending? If you read “esquire’s” comments above, she makes some very valid points and it got me thinking. Can we discuss issues such as shopping behavior, merchandising, and execution without the risk of offending someone because of stereotyping? When we stereotype Hispanics its called knowledge. Perhaps something simple like assuming Hispanic people tend to buy larger quantity of tortillas. I don’t think anyone will dispute that. Unfortunately, when we discuss food items that African Americans tend… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

I have the same problem with the notion of an “African-American” shopper that I do with the notion of a “Hispanic” consumer. The notion that all people respond to certain cues on the basis of ethnicity or skin color used to be considered a cornerstone of racism, not a marketing principle. Of course many members of an ethnic group may choose to identify with other members of that group or be drawn to issues specific to that group, but that doesn’t mean that marketers get off the social responsibility hook just by putting Snoop Dogg in their commercials (all apologies to Chrsyler).

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 6 months ago

In general, Mr. Joyner may have a point that needs to be addressed.

But like the X and Y Generations, combined with the internet and non television viewing, it would be very hard to believe that Coke, P&G, Kraft/Oscar Mayer, Unilever, Pepsi, etc. haven’t done their research in order to capture some level of this mentioned consumer segment.

Maybe the parallel is the Hispanic shopper in which companies are utilizing specific marketing events, Spanish speaking radio, and television to communicate with them.

Maybe, Mr. Joyner wants to see more advertising geared to the black community; or more products for this sector of shoppers,from companies. But it does appear Nike, Horizon, J&J, are also focusing on this African-American community!!! Hmmmmmmmm

Rupa Ranganathan
Guest
Rupa Ranganathan
15 years 6 months ago
Tom Joyner is right on target. This segment commanded a spending power of $723.1 billion in 2004 which is expected to increase 33.4% to $964.6 billion by 2009 (according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth). African-Americans promise marketers a sizeable chunk of market growth. But spending power alone is just one half of the picture. Cultural appreciation will address the emotional bases for “Spending Priorities” which is not as simple as tallying up of spending power from disposable income. The emotional umbrella of family reunions, investing in self-worth, community bonding, premium value are some important truths nurturing this trillion dollar spending generated by African American/Black consumers. Target Market News publishes the Buying Power of Black America, a 103-page report, which is based on an analysis of expenditures reported by 3,000 black households for the Department of Commerce’s Consumer Expenditure Survey. Among the products that showed the greatest one-year increase were refrigerators (+24%), computer hardware (+23%) and software (+75%), satellite dishes (+112%), cable TV service (+15%) and video games (+86%). Sports and recreational equipment purchases… Read more »
Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
15 years 6 months ago

I think the complainer is doing so because he doesn’t think he is being paid enough for his efforts as a radio show host. As compensation is directly effected by advertising revenue, he seeks to benefit by whining about a lack of directed advertising dollars. What he fails to realize is that most black consumers are reached by mainstream media. Additionally, many “for black” entertainment experiences (like BET) have become so raunchy that main stream advertisers don’t want to be associated with that type of entertainment, even if it means that their message might not get to a few potential customers. I personally think that it is a tribute to our society that the melting pot has pretty much done it’s job and that blacks are no longer so segregated that “special” efforts have to be made by major advertisers to communicate with them. Our Hispanic population has not yet reached this point anywhere but the West Coast.

Tom Zatina
Guest
Tom Zatina
15 years 6 months ago

Mr. Joyner makes a valid point and I am certain that many marketers are missing opportunities. Presumably, the best of them have already identified that fact.

In the USA piece, it does seem that Tom Joyner is also making a pitch to attract more advertisers to his show, which, according to the numbers stated, could be one ideal path to the African-American audience.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

The disappearance of many minority-owned ad agencies is not proof that marketers are not reaching African Americans. Mr. Joyner’s assertion that many companies are missing a major market may be true. The assertion can easily be tested by the companies that care about reaching that market.

Smart ad agencies can use many time-tested ways to measure an ad campaign’s effectiveness among any demographic. They can measure recall (aided versus unaided) and can also measure consumer actions taken (purchase diaries, scanning data, etc.)

Certain demographic groups are well known for being heavy or light users of certain brands. Mr. Joyner has access to the same data as ad agencies, and he can use that data to make his points very specific. He’d probably be more effective if he did that privately with the companies involved, though.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 6 months ago
I agree with Mr. Joyner. Part of the problem is the fact that mainstream retailers have long ago pulled out of African American communities. However, that is an entirely different discussion. The reasons why it is difficult to market to African Americans falls somewhere in the Twilight Zone between “can’t figure it out” and “don’t want to figure it out.” I think, just as the African American market was starting to be mined, marketers got distracted by the booming Hispanic market. They all got “gold fever” and rushed to get in on the ground floor. Just to put this in perspective, just how many times do we discuss the Hispanic market on RetailWire relative to the African American market? In order to capture the African American market, we must first make an attempt to reach it. I got an invite recently to attend a Hispanic marketing conference coming up in Dallas. So far, I have never gotten one, nor even heard of one, for African Americans. When I go to food marketing or real estate… Read more »
jo cannon
Guest
jo cannon
15 years 6 months ago

While it may be true that many blacks know who Tom Joyner is, it does not mean we listen to him on the radio or watch BET in our spare time. Just as white Americans need to be marketed to in a variety of ways, so too do blacks. Being black doesn’t mean you can reach us in one fell swoop with an alternative message, as some may get it, while others won’t. We too come from different socio-economic backgrounds, with a variety of life experiences, and do read mainstream papers/periodicals, watch the big 4 networks, and live in “white society”….and can easily digest the message brought forth in advertising to the masses.

James Tenser
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

Tom Zatina hits the key point here, I think. Joyner is a radio host who would like to see his own broadcasts earn a higher ticket from advertisers. I also agree with other commentators that it would be a mistake to consider the African American market to be monolithic in its interests and preferences.

Granted, various segments have different media habits, so it behooves the advertiser to put its message where the targeted eyeballs are going. But overall, I’m not so sure we always need ad messages targeted by race. Some products simply have broad appeal for reasons that have nothing to do with ethnic background. And certainly we have seen enough tasteless ads “targeted” toward urban black males that make us cringe. Like many broad generalizations, Joyner’s analysis, on average, leaves me uncomfortable.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 6 months ago

David has a point; in the USA Today article, even Mr. Joyner makes only the vaguest references to what constitutes good marketing to the black community. Apparently it is not hip-hop, but it involves black actors and advertising on his show. McDonald’s gets it right because they sponsor his show and a black history project. But McDonald’s does a lot of hip-hop style advertising, so which McDonald’s has it right?

I’m not sure using black-run advertising agencies is the answer. The answer is educating mainstream agencies about black culture and cultural references, and educating them about economic power. Maybe Mr. Joyner should write a column for Advertising Age? The more advertising execs are educated about what works and what doesn’t from a black perspective, the better they will get at targeting that community.

Traci Ellis
Guest
Traci Ellis
15 years 6 months ago
As an African American female, I can tell you that I am more likely to buy products/services that resonate with who I am. Depending on the product or service, what may be important is my gender, race, the fact that I am a mother of a teenager and a pre-teen, etc. So, it is short-sighted for any marketer to think that marketing to me as an African American is not important. Of course it is. If that type of segmented marketing is not relevant, then segmented marketing as a whole is questionable. Why is Home Depot knocking itself out to figure out how to market hardwares to women? Because women buy a lot of hardwares and there’s a way to make the product more pleasing to women — a way to “speak” to women, if you will. It is no different when dealing with the Latino or African American consumer. There are ways to speak to us that make the product more appealing. The Stouffer’s example given by the panelist is one good example. African… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 6 months ago
As a non-resident, and obviously somewhat out of touch with the increasing Hispanic population of the US, our frequent discussions about the best ways in which to target them have always struck an odd chord with me. I’m sure I have asked, more than once, why similar concerns are not expressed about targeting other ethnic groups whose first language is not English, if that this is the primary reason for addressing Hispanics in some specially personalised way. Not once has anyone responded. Asians, Africans, Middle Eastern immigrants and even Europeans are just expected to learn English and be advertised to in that language. What is so different about Hispanics (who presumably speak many dialects and variations of Spanish and Portuguese)? Now Tom Joyner, presumably an English as first language speaker, is pointing out the foolhardiness of not targeting African-Americans (and presumably Caribbean Americans unless they, too, are “Hispanic”) through media that they prefer to read or watch. Americans have been so conscious, and guilt-ridden, about white treatment of black people for such a long time… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

In today’s newspaper I found a perfect example of how businesses are too overly cautious when dealing with the African American market. Our local Indian casino has an advertisement promoting a “Gospel Soul Food Buffet” that begins now and until December. There is no doubt to who this advertisement if geared towards. Yet in the advertisement, the man pictured is a “James Bond” high roller looking character. The casino never – ever uses African Americans in their advertisements. Yet they advertise heavily in African American local newspapers. In fact, I think they are the largest advertiser. Why can’t the casino use people in their advertisements that are more reflective of their clientele? Who are they afraid of offending. And why?

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 6 months ago
Hopefully at some point, we’ll market to our shoppers and carry the products that they prefer and expect, without reference to a particular group. Sure, that sounds good, doesn’t it? But can it become reality? I am not so sure that it can’t become reality. To the length and extent that has been taken to market to hispanics, are retailers hitting the right mark there? I’m not so sure they are. In fact, to the extent focus has been lost in some cases on the ‘shopper’ overall, it may be even more ineffective than it appears even on the surface. Shoppers of all backgrounds — Black, African American, Hispanic, Asian, or White — are looking for the same basic characteristics from retailers. In my view, far less effort need be spent on cultural differentiation. Far more effort needs to be spent on real differentiation that ALL consumers will appreciate. If you are doing the right things, then having the right products should take care of itself. But, doing the right things and creating a positive… Read more »
Arlene Jones
Guest
Arlene Jones
15 years 6 months ago
Perhaps the biggest concern in marketing to African Americans is that white advertising agencies think all they have to do is put in a black person and it becomes an ad marketed to blacks. That is not necessarily so. [Consider] the comment from the woman who mentioned the difference between “stuffing” and “dressing.” “Stuffing” doesn’t conjure up memories of Thanksgiving dinners. “Dressing” does. “Stuffing” doesn’t make my mouth water. “Dressing” does. So put the ad for “stuffing” on Friends, Seinfield and other shows that don’t appeal to me as an African-American and guess what? You’re not marketing to me and trying to get my money. Now put the same ad on a rerun of “Living Single” and you may have a chance to expose it to me. But even better, place the ad on “Living Single” and rework it to call it dressing and put it in a cast iron pan and you now have me interested. So to those companies that want to believe they are getting all the market share with a single… Read more »
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