Black Is The New Green: Marketing to Affluent African Americans

With every new marketing campaign a brand rolls out, there is a key question to ask – are we leaving any money on the table? In the new book, Black Is The New Green: Marketing to Affluent African Americans, it seems that luxury brands are missing the boat when it comes to targeting affluent African Americans, or as the book refers to them, AAAs.

According to authors Leonard Burnett, Jr., Co-CEO and Group Publisher of Uptown Media Group and Vibe Lifestyle Network, and Andrea Hoffman, CEO of Diversity Affluence:

The total number of affluent ethnic households in the United States in now estimated at over 1.3 million, the buying power of affluent African Americans is currently $87.3 billion. This massive buying power is expected to reach more than $1.1 trillion by 2012 – just three short years for a cumulative growth of 28.4 percent. It would be foolish in the extreme not to tap into this rich buying segment, yet that is exactly what the marketing arms of companies do all too frequently.

The book is quick to call some major brands to the carpet for marketing to African Americans with broad and lazy strokes, assuming ads that are “urban, cool and influenced by hip hop” or are affiliated with a “hot, young” African American celebrity automatically cover every segment of the African American market, not taking into account the nuances of age and buying power, and not taking the time to do the research that proves this strategy is ineffective.

One example the book sites is Gucci’s choice to use Rihanna in their UNICEF ad campaigns:

“[AAAs] tastes, and their pocketbooks, have matured. Just as any well-heeled adult is likely to be unresponsive to a call to the good life from, say, Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan, AAAs have no aspiration to be like — or, critically, even seem to be like — an 18-year-old music star. [That brand] might have made a better choice in terms of reaching the AAA audience by choosing to employ an image of Halle Berry, or Phylicia Rashad, or even an undiscovered black model from Africa in their ads — in other words, choosing someone who registers on the AAA radar, someone who inspires their aspirations.”

This passage begs the question – with so many brands focused on marketing darlings the Millennials, are we as marketers neglecting to appropriately advise luxury brands to focus on African American CEOs, entrepreneurs, and executives, leaving their “old money” on the table for competitors? What do you think?

For more on the book and insight from the authors, check out the AdWeek interview.


2 responses to “Black Is The New Green: Marketing to Affluent African Americans

  1. Danielle Styles

    I agree completely. Agencies and other marketers have told luxury brands to pay attention to the AAA consumer. But without proper insight and guidance- they are missing the mark completely. I’ll be picking up the book to see what advice they give for reaching that segment.

  2. I don’t think they are being missed. My opinion is that AAA’s subscribe to and identify with the same thing as the general market. For example, I subscribe to Town & Country magazine and have for years. I did a media buy for Edwin Watts Golf and only purchased news/talk and sports stations because the AAA’s also listen to those stations. I don’t think advertising on predominately black mediums will give you the audience you are trying to reach. Those AAA’s can be found on general market mediums.

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