Skip to main content

MBPT Spotlight: Nielsen Report - Marketers Should Make African-American Consumers Bigger Priority

A new report by Nielsen stresses to marketers the importance of reaching the 43 million U.S. African-American consumers and offers insight into their media consumption and buying habits that can help aid in tapping into their $1 trillion annual spending.

The report strongly suggests that African-American consumers are more aggressive users of media than any other population group, including watching more television and reading more financial magazines. They are also major online website and social media users and spend more time shopping than other ethnic groups.

Yet, of the $75 billion spent annually on TV, magazine, radio and online advertising in the U.S., only $2.2 billion is spent with media focused on African-American audiences.

The report, titled Resilient, Receptive and Relevant—The African-American Consumer, states, "Black businesses, agencies and media continue to wrestle with this disparity as it is not reflective of the overall, high-consumption patterns and behavioral trends of the Black consumer."

This is the third report Nielsen has put out in collaboration with the National Newspaper Publishers Association, the 73-year-old federation of close to 200 Black community newspapers from around the country. The NNPA is also known as the Black Press of America.

As a demo group, the African-American population averages 35 years of age with more than half (53%) being under 35. And African-American women are slightly more dominant in number than men, with adult African-American women making up 54% of the Adult Black population and 52% of employed Blacks being female.

"While African-American men continue to dominate as the financial providers for Black households, companies seeking to connect with African-American consumers may want to pay close attention to women," the reports states.

Women An Increasingly Vital Force

Women control 43% of the annual spending power for the Black population and 29% of Black women are tabbed the head of their household, compared to 20% for the overall population. Women also own the majority of Black businesses.

"While ongoing attention should be paid to Black men as consumers, Black women are an increasingly vital force within the Black community, given their gains in education, occupational status and business ownership," the report states. "Black women tend to make the majority of the purchasing decisions in their households and may be receptive to marketing messages that acknowledge the dual roles many women play as mothers and working professionals."

The report also points out that African-Americans in large numbers are easy to reach because they are concentrated in large metropolitan cities around the country and also in key Southern cities such as Raleigh, N.C., Memphis, Tenn., Jackson, Miss., and Columbia, S.C.

New York has the largest African-American population with 3.8 million, followed by Atlanta (2.1 million), Chicago (1.74 million), Washington, D.C. (1.67 million), Philadelphia (1.63 million), Houston (1.18 million), Dallas (1.15 million), Detroit (1.08 million) and Miami/Ft. Lauderdale (1.04 million).

The report also finds that Black households shop more frequently than the total market figure, but spend an average of $8 less per trip—$39 compared to $47.

A greater percentage of upper income Blacks, who earn $100,000 annually or higher, shop at Whole Foods compared to non-Black consumers (16% vs. 11%).

Also, African-American consumers place a high emphasis on the grooming and beauty categories, particularly Ethnic hair and beauty aids. "The beauty supply store channel, in particular, offers consumer packaged goods retailers and manufacturers an opportunity to increase market share as Black shopper penetration and annual spending with this channel both increase with higher income," the report states.

Purchase Preferences—And Under-Indexing
Other categories heavily purchased by African-Americans include meats and seafood, dry vegetables and grain, refrigerated juices and drinks, spices, women's fragrances and detergents.

Conversely, the report states, African-Americans under-index in buying categories such as breakfast foods, cheese, wine, milk, coffee, desserts and pet care products.

Favorite fast-food restaurants of African-Americans in order are McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, KFC, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Popeye's, Chick-Fil-A, Pizza Hut and Dunkin Donuts.

The report found that when it comes to media, African-Americans are huge TV watchers. Blacks watch 37% more TV each day than any other group, spending seven hours and 17 minutes per day watching TV, compared to five hours and 18 minutes of viewing for the total market. And Black women, especially in the 18-49 demo, are heavier users than their male counterparts.

The five networks most watched by Blacks in order are: BET, VH1, TV One, Bounce TV and Centric. The 2013 BET Awards delivered an African-American audience 74% higher than the Grammy Awards and nearly three times greater than the Oscar telecast.

Love & Hip Hop Atlanta
Rates Highest
The most-watched primetime shows by Blacks in order are: Love & Hip Hop Atlanta on VH1, Scandal (ABC), Real Husbands of Hollywood (BET), Real Housewives of Atlanta (Bravo), T.I. and Tiny (VH1), The Game (BET), Love & Hip Hop (VH1), Hit the Floor (VH1), American Idol (Fox) and Black Ink Crew (VH1).

The report finds African-Americans spent 44% more time each month on education and career sites and 20% more time on family and lifestyle sites than total market consumers. They also spent 21% more time on entertainment sites.

The most used search engine by African-Americans is Google Search with more than 15 million unique visitors per month. Next in order are Yahoo (7.5 million), Bing (6.6 million), (6.3 million) and Google Image (5 million).

Facebook is the top social media site visited by African-Americans across all age demos.

Among African-Americans, 77% own smartphones and the apps in which they spent the most time using are (in order) Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pandora Radio, eBay Mobile, Facebook Messenger, Yahoo Email, Gmail, YouTube, Google Play, Apple Maps and Google Maps.

Blacks read financial magazines 28% more than other consumers and spend an average of 87 minutes online looking at websites related to finance and investment, which is 12% higher than the overall market, the report states. And Blacks are more likely to read Forbes and Fortune magazines than the total market.

The report recommends that marketers who want to reach African-American consumers target them on the TV shows they watch and on the websites they use and particularly on Facebook and Twitter.

The report also offers this advice to marketers:

"Companies mistakenly believe because there are no language barriers, that a general market one-size-fits-all strategy is an effective way to reach African-Americans. Just the opposite is true, It is not language that distinguishes connectivity with African-Americans, but a brand's ability to understand the Black experience and cultural nuances that resonate with Blacks who are more receptive to messages when they feel valued."

So which companies are targeting Black consumers?

Procter & Gamble was the top spender with media focused on Black audiences in 2012, spending $75 million on TV, magazine, Internet and radio advertising. Other top spenders included L'Oreal ($52 million); McDonald's ($38 million); Unilever ($31 million); the U.S. Government ($29 million); Berkshire Hathaway ($28 million); Comcast ($28 million); Hershey ($27 million); Pepsi Co. ($25 million); Walmart ($24 million); Fiat ($24 million); AT&T ($22 million); Verizon ($22 million); Toyota ($21 million); General Motors ($21 million); Sony Corp. ($20 million); Johnson & Johnson ($20 million); Ford ($19 million); Allstate ($19 million); and National Amusements ($19 million).