Is Your Entertainment Brand Reaching Out to African-American Consumers Everywhere But in Their Communities?

Community and culture are of top importance to black consumers. If you want to connect with this demographic, you’ll make them a priority, too.

Americans—particularly African-American consumers—spend a lot of time and money on out-of-home pursuits. Nearly a quarter (21%) of our time in fact. Yet, Hollywood and global entertainment brands have historically had a blind spot when it comes to out-of-home (OOH) marketing, spending just 9% of their budgets to meet their audiences where they are. Why the disconnect?

It may be a lack of understanding about where consumers are spending their OOH time, especially when it comes to African-American consumers. But the numbers are there:

  • Blacks make eight times more shopping trips than any other group in America.
  • African-Americans who go to family restaurants are more likely to be frequent users, visiting six or more times in a 30-day period.
  • African-Americans spend nearly nine times more than non-black counterparts on hair and beauty products and $473 million in total hair care. While few sources parse those numbers out, it’s safe to say that an average African-American woman may spend $1200 a year on visits to the beauty salon. That’s a lot of time in the salon chair!

The takeaway here is that African-American men and women—a group with around $1.3 billion in annual buying power—spend a large portion of their incomes on shopping, entertainment, and grooming. Odds are, they are not driving hundreds of miles away to do these things, but rather choosing to patronize establishments in their own communities and even their own neighborhoods.

For many African-American consumers, supporting black-owned businesses is a big deal, so they may choose to have their hair done at a black-owned barbershop or salon and then have lunch at a nearby, black-owned restaurant. In many cities in America, these may even be owned by the same black entrepreneur. Understanding the dynamics of black communities and how African-American consumers navigate them can enable entertainment marketers to create a highly targeted geo-map for smart, out-of-home marketing.

Salons and barbershops in particular are a hot spot for reaching African-American consumers. Black men and women visit these venues, which represent an emotional and cultural haven to them, with much more regularity and commitment than general consumers. This is why even healthcare providers have been using them to perform critical community outreach for decades.

“The (barber)shop is definitely used as an outreach station to make the black community aware of services that will save their life,” says Arthur Lee, who has owned the Lee’s Barbershop in Washington, D.C. for nearly 25 years. “Non-profits do things like high-blood pressure screening and HIV testing in front of the shop. We’ve been part of a condom program since about 2005. People who don’t even get their hair cut will come by and get (condoms)…because they’re free.”

Since 2007, more than 25,000 men have been screened for diabetes and high blood pressure in more than 400 barbershops through the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program.

Local soul food restaurants have a similar draw for the African-American community. They have many customers that drop in for a meal every single day; customers they know by name because they may go to the same church or have family and friends in common. These are not your average casual dining chain restaurants, but places people go to feel connected to their communities.

To create an out-of-home cultural marketing campaign that leaves little to chance, entertainment and other global brands can cross-market between salons, barbershops and local soul food restaurants that serve the same African-American customers on a regular basis. For instance, giving away valuable branded merchandise such as film posters, t-shirts, keychains, etc. to restaurant owners as well as salon and barbershop owners would quickly saturate the neighborhood with your project’s message. Add to that in-store marketing tactics such as branded hair styling capes and hair care products in salons and placemats or, say, branded packets of wet wipes in a barbecue or soul food restaurant, and you can be sure the title of your film, television show, or soundtrack will be on everyone’s lips (literally, in the case of the last example!).

Geo-fencing African-American neighborhoods for more targeted marketing may seem aggressive or even offensive to some marketers, but the reality is that African-American consumers are voracious about consuming media (and food) and love to be in the know about the next new thing, so they can pass it on.

Cheryl Grace, Senior Vice President of U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement at Nielsen has said,

“Our research shows that black consumer choices have a ‘cool factor’ that has created a halo effect, influencing not just consumers of color but the mainstream as well. These figures show that investment by multinational conglomerates in R&D to develop products and marketing that appeal to diverse consumers is, indeed, paying off handsomely.”

Are you ready to get more strategic about marketing entertainment to African-American consumers? Then it’s time to take OOH marketing—and the communities that respond to it—more seriously.

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

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