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5 Ways to Improve Your Brand Outreach to Black Americans

By Stephen Feldman

Size matters. We all know it. The Fortune 500 are giants and want to keep growing. According to the Economist cover story “In Retreat – Global Companies in the Era of Protectionism,” globalization and international trade have been key drivers of competition for more than two decades, but growth is slowing. So, where will the brand growth come from? How about our own backyard? According to Nielsen, the multicultural market in America represents $3.4 trillion of buying power as of 2014. The Black American community’s buying power is forecasted to be $1.4 trillion by 2020.62 Make no mistake, inclusion is good business.

Right now, in the U.S., we have mountains of data that empower you to know and communicate effectively with your existing and potential customers. One example of how Fortune 500 businesses can directly impact brand growth is through social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, are only four of the biggest out of nearly 300 social channels. It’s a game changer: enabling two-way communication with customers. The era of business-to-consumer and consumer-to-busi­ness (B2C to C2B) is here. The multicultural audience is the largest user and influencer of this ‘C2B’ communication tool and it offers opportunity for brands to connect and expand their markets to make more money.

Here’s how you can take advantage of multicultural growth in 2017:


Management and ad agencies need to recognize that more talent is available than ever before. These new and diverse voices attract a devoted following (some in the millions of followers) because they bring a unique voice or type of creativity. By sticking to old formulas and established ‘stars,’ they miss entire audiences and most importantly, the opportunity to add new customers. A good starting point is to bring on college students. They can help shape or provide an authentic voice to reach these new consumers and they understand and are avid users of social media.

Another way is to invite young (even high school aged), diverse influenc­ers and content creators to open houses to give them an understanding of the different paths they could pursue in the media field. They already exemplify an aptitude for the skills needed. Agencies reaching out to influencers to involve them in campaigns is becoming common, and this is an opportunity to get their input early on, thus, avoiding potential missteps.

A third approach is to reach within their own companies to find brand advocates who are very familiar with their own brand, their own strategy, and their own current messaging. Companies may be surprised at the wealth of knowledge and potential insights residing within the company.

A fourth approach is now becoming an accepted practice: using actual real-time data from social channels to test your hypotheses about your prod­ucts, services, and trends. It is all about trying one thing, seeing the results or lack of results, then trying another. By combining youthful insights and using statistical analysis and search optimization tech­niques, there is a better use of resources leading to higher revenues and profits.


Has your ad budget and ad targeting kept pace with the changing demographics of the U.S.? New customer growth can be achieved with an increase or a more diverse allocation of the existing ad budget. Everyone knows that ‘digital’ is gaining a bigger share of ad spend, but the deeper commitment to a broader customer base (think multicultural) can only improve earnings of companies. New social media tools are just one part of a larger strategy to increase customer growth and company earnings. A central idea is that getting more Black and multicultural consumers in the sales funnel will lead to results.


Find a wealth of talent online when you explore the ecosystem of customers living, breathing, and buying products and services as a result of the influence felt through social media. By interacting with these new or up-and-coming talents, companies can absorb and learn about their potential new customers and audiences.

The new business model of many-to-many is here. Broadcast media and the one-to-many distribution business model is still important, but is rapidly becoming outdated and experiencing a tectonic shift. Customers can provide direct feedback to companies and to other customers through online reviews, for example, allowing them to improve their products or services. Black consumers are among the highest users of social media. This is not something to fear. More consumer information and interaction provides significant upside profit potential. The downside is to be left behind and with a slew of poor reviews. How does that happen? By not listening to your customers. And, by not doing a good job portraying your audience in your ads.


Take an honest look at your current market share. You can impact your audience with a fresh and relevant strategy. Strategic thinking is the bridge to relevance. How are you describing your customers and the ones that your competition is courting? Find your strengths and weaknesses with an audit of your existing ads. How are your ads representing or not representing Black consumers? Benetton’s iconic

United Colors of Benetton multicultural ads started running in the early 1980s. That’s 35 years ago. Are you in danger of falling behind or becoming irrele­vant?

You or your agency can meet and ask your staff through surveys or focus groups specific questions to uncover any gaps between how your company thinks your messaging is being communicated and what current customers say. Then compare the results to feedback from potential customers and possibly to the nuanced ways that multicultural audiences prefer to communicate. This may prove insightful. In addition, outside agencies can be useful in helping understand and navigate how demographics are changing and how to reach these audiences. For example, Black consumers use social media exten­sively. How do you increase sales to Black consumers using these new marketing channels? A fresh look at your content might be required. What images are you currently using in your ads? What is your messaging? Is the intent behind your messaging and how it is perceived in alignment?


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Your internal marketing team working with your ad partners can create a company specific audit program and issue a private report card. The aim is to gather information and insights from those who know your company’s ethos and mission best, your own team. While big data and focus groups can reveal much externally about customers, no one is in a better position to help you than your own employees. Forward thinking agencies can be change agents and have unique tools to allow management to understand where they have been, where they are, and where to go to increase customers, revenues, and profits.

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