Black Americans are 48 million strong and command $1.3 trillion in spending power. But their clout extends well beyond their economic muscle. “With a median age of 32, black Americans are just approaching their peak earning years, but are already dominating industries from music to fashion and many others, and creating apps and digital spaces to serve their own unique needs when the opportunity demands it,” according to a new report from Nielsen entitled, “It’s In The Bag: Black Consumers’ Path To Purchase.”
One need not look far to see the cultural impact of African Americans today: Hip-hop continues to dominate the music scene, accounting for 24.7% of music consumption in 2018, well above runner-up genre pop, which accounted for only 19% of all music consumed.
African Americans are avid media consumers, giving advertisers ample opportunities to connect with them. Blacks spend considerably more time with television each week than the total population (50:38 vs. 39:06), although their total time spent is down one hour and 20 minutes each week from 2018. To make up for the lost TV time, black consumers in 2019 are active in using “Internet on the go,” spending more time on video, audio and social networking than the total population on both smartphones and tablets. Not only are African Americans spending more time on these devices, they are spending more time using them than the total population: They spend more than three hours more on websites/apps on smartphones (29:46 vs. 26:31) and nearly an hour more on tablets (13:36 vs. 12:47).
But it is radio, at 92%, that has the highest reach among African Americans 18+ and they are tuning in throughout the day with 35% of radio listening happening in the home and 64% away from home. Urban AC is by far the leading format of choice, with a 29.3% share among 18+ African Americans, followed by urban contemporary at 20.3%, and the remaining genres of rhythmic CHR (6.3%), AC (5.7%) and news/talk (4.9%).
The format percentages show minor variance when looking at listeners 12+ except for news/talk, which is popular with older listeners but is replaced by pop CHR at a stronger market share of 5%.
The 60-page Nielsen report shows black buying power continues to grow, from $320 billion in 1990 to $1.3 trillion in 2018. Between 2000 and 2018, the race’s buying power rose 114%, compared to an 89% increase in white buying power. Texas now has the largest population of African Americans and tops the nation in the sector’s buying power.
Yet despite this growth in economic clout, advertising spend designed to reach black consumers declined by 5% between 2017 and 2018. “The decrease on a variety of media is at odds with the demonstrated economic power of black consumers, particularly on digital platforms, where they have been leading consumption for years,” the report states. One theory advanced by the authors – Cheryl Grace, Senior VP, U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement, Nielsen; and Mia Scott-Aime, VP, Communications, Nielsen – is that marketers may believe they can reliably reach black audiences with the same dollars they spend to reach the total population. After all, there’s no language barrier to overcome, and black consumers use all the same platforms to consume content as everyone else. But these approaches “simultaneously ignore the lived experiences of black consumers that define black culture, and the growth proposition these consumers represent for all consumer industries,” the report contends. “The case for reaching these consumers is clear: With annual buying power higher than the economic output of most countries, and an outsized influence on culture, black consumers represent one of the only reliable engines for future growth. Yet, many companies feel they can reach black consumers with a general market approach. However, this strategy leaves dollars on the table, and brand reputations at risk.”