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The African-American Market: Successful Market Activation - On-Site, On-Air, On-Line, and On-Point

by Lafayette Jones, President, SMSi-Urban Call Marketing, Inc. and Urban Call Publisher
Sandra Miller Jones, Founding Chair of Segmented Marketing Services, Inc.
SMSi-Urban Call Marketing, Inc. is the sponsor of the African-American Market section of our 2010/2011 Source Book of Multicultural Experts.


The “why” of marketing to black consumers is easy for marketers to understand.  These 40 million multicultural consumers are approaching 14 percent of the U.S. population and, for the most part, speak English, with some French and Spanish speakers. They skew younger (40-years-old   as opposed to 45) than the total population.  They are making “a dramatic advancement” in education says the University of Georgia’s  Selig Center for Economic Growth, with a 20 percent college completion rate in 2008.  They are concentrated in urban areas and select states, (54 percent in the South) which makes for readily accessible target marketing. They frequently purchase premium priced goods and tend to be brand loyal. Black consumers will have over a trillion dollars  in buying power in 2014. (www.terry.uga.edu/selig).

The “how” of marketing to the black consumer is more challenging.  While traditional print  black magazines (Essence, Ebony, Upscale) and black community newspapers (www.nnpa.org) continue to be  strong,  new media choices include podcasts, e-blasts, microsites, Webcasts, internet radio, streaming media and social media.  Where to start?  The best advice: use more than one method.  Be on-site, on-air, on-line, and especially, be on-point.  Market activation for brands is achieved through the best mix of all the marketing tools.  

On-Site:
In urban markets let custom publications do the walking.  These vehicles, (www.smsiurbancallmarketing.com)   have exclusive advertising – yours.  It is “content marketing” as described by American Business Media; relevant information is “delivered to a targeted audience.”  According to the Custom Content Council (www.custompublishingcouncil.com) 70 percent of American consumers say that custom publications make them feel closer to the sponsoring company and that “the company cares about its customers.” 

Experiential marketing, including sampling and special events, are key.  Sampling has been  proven to increase sales by 40 percent.  At the 30-year-old sampling and promotion firm, Segmented Marketing Services, Inc., (SMSi),  research conducted by Johnson & Associates Marketing, confirmed that 80 percent of consumers who received a sample reported trying it. (www.segmentedmarketing.com) The SMSi Community of Networks  reaches more than 50 percent of black and Latino consumers in the top 20 national urban markets.  Through this proprietary network, free product samples, Urban Call custom  publications and promotions are   distributed in  grassroots  venues including churches, beauty salons, barbershops, youth, senior and daycare centers, health centers and entertainment venues.  Special events like health and fitness expos are developed with media and public relations placements designed for each execution.

Finally, there’s nothing like a field marketing execution staff of local bi-lingual community ambassadors.  These indigenous “Feet on the Street” understand the fabric of the community and can make strategic street sense of information. They have relationships with key community opinion leaders: religious, media and urban leaders, association officers, elected officials and retailers—all which can be integrated and leveraged to promote brands and services.

On-Air:
Black radio reaches “95.1 percent of African-Americans aged 12 and older each week, making it the top medium for this market segment,” says Pepper Miller quoting the Arbitron rating company’s Black Radio Today in her book, “What’s Black About It?”  In Atlanta there are 15 black stations with   diverse radio formats: Talk, Gospel, Jazz, Hip-Hop, “Holy Hip Hop,” Soul, R & B and African-Caribbean music.  Radio reaches large numbers of African-Americans in a culturally appropriate medium here and in other ethnic markets like Chicago and Houston (www.radioblack.com).

On-Line:  
In 2013 eMarketer.com predicts that 56 percent of black consumers will be using the Internet.  According to the Magazine Publishers of America (www.magazine.org/marketprofiles), African-Americans  purchase more online tools than the general market.  One of the most well-known black content  sites is blackplanet.com.   Black radio is  online.  According to an Atlanta CBS Media Group capabilities report, people spend almost 30 hours per week listening to radio through a combination of traditional radio and streaming (online) radio. Cable TV comes in second with viewership of nearly  20 hours  per week. Black TV is online through Webcasts; TV One and BET are stations to engage.

On-Point:
To be on-point means employing the right tactical strategies.  Magic Johnson -  legendary basketball player, hall of famer and head of Magic Johnson Enterprises  (www.magicjohnsonenterprises.com),  formed an alliance with Aetna insurance and  AARP that resulted in highly successful Magic@50 Community Health and Fitness Expos in  Atlanta, Los Angeles,  Washington, D.C. and Chicago (http://tinyurl.com/UC-Magicat50). General Mills multicultural marketing group launched a major consumer initiative,   Feeding Dreams, to honor under-recognized black Americans doing "good things" in the African-American community. (www.FeedingDreams.com)

Frank Mulhern, at Chicago’s Northwestern University says that brand marketers are making strides: "Nearly 50 percent of the overall survey respondents indicated that multiple departments—PR, marketing, sales, advertising, etc.—work together to implement a marketing campaign.” (“ROI of Integrated Marketing”) However Mulhern, head of the Promotion Marketing Association’s quarterly publication, (www.pmalink.org) notes there is room for improvement.

Strategic pathways to success mean increased market share, sales and satisfied black customers who keep coming back for more.  Research on black consumer needs and wants, and measuring for business results (metrics) work. If budgets are limited, consider  smaller test market(s) and expand later.  Find the experts who can help you employ 360 degree surround sound by mixing  all the  elements (on site, on air, on line, on point)  to effectively  penetrate  urban markets. For information e-mail Lafayette Jones at President@SMSi-Net.com or call (336) 414-2331.

Contact information:
SMSi-Urban Call Marketing, Inc.
4265 Brownsboro Rd., Suite 225
Winston-Salem, NC 27105
Ph. 336-759-7477
Fx. 336-759-7212
president@smsi-net.com
www.smsiurbancallmarketing.com
www.segmentedmarketing.com