Making the Most of African-American Consumer Power

Diving into the facts about Black buying power.

Posted: 03/04/2013 11:31 AM EST

Cheryl Pearson-McNeil and Nadja Bellan-White. (Photo: Kris Connor/Getty Images for BET)

Many of the media professionals who made up the majority of the “Black Purchasing Power” panel on this year’s Leading Women Defined conference were attendees at the 2012 summit, where their enthusiastic audience participation gave rise to an impassioned debate. The question? How do we leverage the enormous purchasing power of the African-American community?

Panel moderator Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, who is senior vice president of public affairs and government relations for Nielsen, kicked off this year’s lively discussion with a provocative presentation of numbers, including these facts:

—       There are 43 million Black consumers in the U.S.;

—        Black people buy more consumer products than any other ethnic group in America combined;

—        Black America has $1.1 trillion purchasing power;

—       On average, 72 percent of African-Americans have more than one social networking profile.

“Once we do the numbers on Black consumers, we see one thing: You are pure power, baby!” Pearson-McNeil said. “That’s a great takeaway for people in our business.”

“It’s not about Black; it’s about profit,” said Vicky Free, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of BET Networks. “Black consumers are 2 percent of the total market share, but there’s a perception that Black consumers don’t matter. The numbers don’t support that myth.

“How do we as consumers harness that percentage?” Free asked. “We have to move the needle to get our fair share because we’re spending more per capita, but we’re not getting the advertising dollars. We have to do what the Latino community has done in advancing the business case for our advancement.”

Other panelists included Nadja Bellan-White, senior partner/managing director of Ogilvy; Monique Nelson, CEO of Uniworld, Inc.; and Leontyne Green Sykes, chief marketing officer of IKEA North America.

Free urged conference-goers to check in regularly at #InTheBlack, the marketing campaign website sponsored by the Black Media & Marketing Consortium which keeps consumers informed on companies that are leaders in working with the African-American community.

Follow the conference at BET.com/LWD and on Twitter with #LWD.

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