Commentary: The Good and Bad of Black Marketing

A new website teaches corporations how to appeal to Black consumers. But don’t go pulling out your wallets just yet.

Posted: 11/10/2011 08:34 AM EST

African-American buying power has now reached more than $1 trillion, according to a new report, "State of the African-American Consumer," prepared by the Nielsen firm and the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a federation of more than 200 Black community newspapers across the U.S.

 

If Blacks were a country, says the report, they would rank as the 16th largest in the world. Blacks also take more shopping trips than all other ethnicities in America. In a word, despite what people might think, and despite the fact that Blacks are struggling with poverty at disproportionate rates, many Blacks can and do spend money.

As you might imagine, retailers aren’t ignorant to the rise of the spendy African-American consumer. That’s why the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau recently launched reachingblackconsumers.com. The site was built to help companies and advertising firms understand the shopping habits demographics and commercial interests of African-Americans.

“A lot of the African-American story has been told from a civil rights perspective as opposed to a business rationale for why you should market to this segment,” Cynthia Perkins-Roberts, the vice president for multicultural marketing at the CAB, told the New York Times. She added, “The African-American story is one of development. We needed to find a way to tell the story in a way that made sense.”

Reachingblackconsumers.com is a sign of progress in that it shows people are becoming more interested in including African-Americans in the nation’s business dialogue. But it’s perhaps something to be wary of. More importance placed on Black consumers could theoretically result in more media directed at Blacks, meaning more mainstream TV shows including Black characters and more Blacks brought onboard at production companies.

That’s the good part. The bad part is obvious: More marketers are turning their attention to Black consumers, and they’re not doing it out of love or respect; they’re doing it because they want money. In moving forward into a future in which Blacks accumulate a bit more money and power than they’ve had before, it’s important for the African-American community to keep in mind that people advertising to you isn’t a sign of friendship or mutual appreciation. It’s a sign that corporations want you to buy their stuff and not buy the other guy’s stuff.

It’s as simple and calculated as that, and if Blacks somehow lost all their money tomorrow, the corporate advertisers would go away, too. As B.I.G. said, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.”

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

(Photo: Dennis Wall/Orlando Sentinel/MCT/LANDOV)

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