Advertising that appeals to ethnic identities and specific cultures has become an important aspect in advertising. If this is not executed correctly, it can turn multicultural consumers against a company. Research shows that minorities are more brand loyal than the general market, so understanding how to appeal to these segments is key. To successfully appeal to these markets that encompass America, understanding the attitudes, values and characteristics of the multicultural consumer is important to make that connection and change their purchasing behavior. This will be one of a three part series where I’ll discuss marketing tactics to advertise to African American, Latino American and Asian American consumers.

Size of Market
The size of the African American market is growing and advertisers in the United States need to take notice in order to appeal to the diversity that encompasses the USA. In 2008 the African American audience had a buying power of $913 billion. Research suggests that black buying power will rise to $1.2 trillion in 2013 (Miley, 2009). That number will be nine percent of America’s buying power, which is not a number to ignore. In the book “Madison Avenue and the Color Line,” Jason Chambers advises to recognize the profitability and buying power of this market. This is a fast growing market in the United States and targeting the forty million African Americans is important.

Black America Today was a research study done by Rido One, the largest African American broadcasting company. They surveyed 3,400 African Americans and identified eleven different consumer segments, and each group has different preferences. Marketers need to realize and specifically target these segments. The middle class among African American’s is growing and in the 1990s there was a thirty percent decrease in black poverty. Also in the 1990s, there was a one percent average annual growth in incomes among African Americans, which was higher than white households.

Although poverty among blacks is decreasing, it is still relevant among the African American community. One in ten men were below the poverty line in 2001. But, black enrollment in colleges and graduate schools has reached an all time high. Seventy-two percent, aged twenty-four and older, now have a high school diploma. In 2005, it was reported that fifty-five percent of women and forty percent of men had completed some college work.

The demographics of the African American culture within the United States plays a key factor in successfully marketing to their ethnicity. Blacks are heavily concentrated in the South. Over fifty-five percent live in the South, eighteen percent live in the Northeast and Midwest and about nine percent live in the West. Within these regions, fifty-two percent live in a city within a metro area.

How to Appeal
To successfully target this profitable market, it is crucial to understand the issues that African Americans face because of their history with slavery, legal segregation, and discrimination.

African American’s have a deep culture with specific lifestyle and language qualities that should be tapped into when advertising to their ethnicity. McDonald’s advertisements speak to the black market directly. Please refer to the McDonald’s case study below. Speaking to blacks directly has proved to enhance positioning.

Psychographics are extremely important to appeal to African Americans. Seventy percent of blacks feel they need to keep ethnic traditions in their lives and pass their traditions down within their families. Fifty-nine percent say that they make an effort to become more connected to their heritage. These statistics, along with the history of African American’s has led to find that blacks are overly sensitive about feeling stereotyped, not feeling valued, respected or included. To avoid stereotyping, it’s best to understand their culture, needs and wants from their perspectives. “Communicating with the Multicultural Consumer,” stated that a majority of all blacks still do not feel respected by society. Because they feel this way, they are very brand loyal to businesses that understand and reflect the awareness of their ethnicity.

Another key factor in African American’s lives is the value of family. The 2006 Monitor Multicultural Marketing Study found that blacks often seek advice, guidance and support in important circumstances from their family. This “family” also includes the community and neighborhoods from which they live. Although family is significant to African American families, they have the lowest marriage rate of any other ethnic group.

Markers can tap into the importance of community involvement among the black market, by starting support cause related programs that help African Americans. Blacks like to see that companies care about what they care about: education, health issues, art and more.

African American women are more likely to try new trends than the general women market. These women will pay extra for products that are consistent with their image compared to the general market. They also find it important while shopping that stores treat the customers equal in relation to race. They also believe brand names equal equality. Over half of black women, aged eighteen to twenty-nine, stated that their goals were to own their own businesses and homes one day.

The Black America Today study found that targeting through black media is extremely effective because black consumers are twice as likely to trust black media over mainstream media. A high percent of eighty one percent of all African Americans watch black interest television channels weekly and sixty eight percent watch online. This proves that advertising in black media channels is effective. African Americans consume a large amount of different media so it is important to target African Americans in other media as well.

Reaching black consumers through different media has proved vital because African Americans spend more time than any other group consuming media. A majority of this consumption is spent watching TV. They highly embrace black media resources. Seventy-nine percent rely on black media for their news and information. BET, the Philadelphia Tribune, which is the leading African American newspaper, and magazines like Ebony and Essence are useful media to reach the black population.

Sixty percent of African Americans don’t feel like advertising is targeting them. They feel advertisements are targeted toward white people. To appeal to this market, it is important to persuade and portray African Americans in a good light. Promotional events during black history month are important, but it is also important to do so throughout the year.

There are forerunners in targeting African Americans. The largest firm is Procter & Gamble who spent $89.7 million in 2008. According to Neilson Monitor Plus, thirty-five percent of radio spots were on local African American radio stations, totaling $805 million in spending. The networks spending the greatest amount of money to target African Americans is UPN, WB and the CW network who all totaled $193.3 million. The top television shows based on revenue that successfully targeted African Americans in 2008 are: Girlfriends, Everyone Hates Chris, The Game and All of Us on the CW and Watch Over Me on MNT (“Advertising Targeting African,” 2008).

Procter & Gamble have a strategy to target African American consumers in the United States. They research what black consumers want, and tailor their products to them. Their research found that black consumers value scents and flavors. This research has lead to the scents in Gain detergent and the flavoring of Crest toothpaste. P&G also suggest creating marketing programs with a large dose of black media and entertainers to draw in the black consumer.

Coca-Cola re established their brand and dedicated an African American segment in their marketing in 2006. They focus on building relationships and loyalty and their numbers show that they are doing both well. They are out performing their competition based on numbers and value. Ms. White, assistant vice president of African American marketing at Coca-Cola, stated that Obama becoming president is a trend in the market place. Obama has helped blacks feel more accepted within American society. White also noted that multicultural consumers are sharing their culture with the total population, which is also helping blacks feel accepted. Diversity as a whole is important to Coca-Cola Co. and is among the leaders incorporating diversity into their advertising.

Case Studies
McDonald’s spoke directly to African Americans, and other customers, with the “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign. This idea came from mainstream pop culture steamed from the African American community. This campaign gained popularity around the world enthusing the general market as well. The communication strategy conducted for this campaign was from African American insights.

In 2004 Tide with a Touch of Downy detergent targeted African American consumers. This campaign was titled “Nostalgia Dad” and broke down stereotypes of African American males in homes. The father featured in this campaign showed warmth and fatherly caretaking where he is cradling his son. P&G stated that it was important for the father to have a wedding ring on. This campaign was featured in television, print, online music clips, radio and the Tom Joyner show. The result showed that the black consumers began buying share in Tide with a Touch of Downy compared to the entire market. This ad can be viewed above.

There are many companies that have successfully targeted African Americans. The 2007 Cover Girl campaign used Queen Latifah to target black women, Olay body lotion targeted blacks with a lotion specifically for African American skin and Tiger Woods was used as a spokesperson for Gillette razors. Olay Definity came out with a line to smooth skin tones for black women and showed to be very appreciated by black women.

In order to succeed in reaching African Americans, marketers must realize that race truly does matter. In fact, it guides how African American’s choose their products. It is important to reach past demographics and to incorporate how African American’s feel. By tailoring advertisements to specific ethnicities, those ethnic races will respond.


Advertising Targeting African Americans tops $2.3 billion, Nielsen Reports. (2008). Benton Foundation, Retrieved from

In text: (“Advertising Targeting African,” 2008)

Miley, MM. (2009). Don’t bypass African Americans. Advertising Age, Retrieved from

Mueller, BM. (2008). Communicating with the multicultural consumer: theoretical and practical perspectives. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.

Peale , CP. (2007). Procter & gambles advertising targeting African Americans has paid off. Target Market News, Retrieved from

Zmuda, NM. (2009). How coke is targeting black consumers. Advertising Age, Retrieved from