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Black Influence Goes Mainstream in the U.S.

4 minute read | September 2015

From movies to sports to music and everything in between, black culture resonates broadly extending deep, cultural traditions that span generations and all consumer groups. The power of black influence is something businesses and content creators should consider when developing strategic marketing campaigns and programs not only for African-American audiences, but for the general population, too.

African-American Star Power

Discriminating higher-income African-Americans will pay for the best quality when making purchases. In fact, Nielsen’s Increasingly Affluent, Educated and Diverse: African-American Consumers–The Untold Story report found that African-Americans earning more than $100,000 say they will pay extra for a product that is consistent with an image they want to convey. And one way brands can convey their image is by aligning with familiar faces.

Brands often use celebrities to boost the appeal of their products or services to potential consumers. Celebrities have qualities that can be both aspirational and relatable, and marketers depend on these strong attributes to gain consumers’ trust and brand loyalty. For African-American consumers, celebrity endorsements have purchase implications across all income levels, but the connection is the strongest among households earning $50,000-$75,000, who are 96% more likely than non-Hispanic White counterparts to consider making a purchase if that product or service is endorsed by a celebrity.

Overall, African-American celebrities are among the most well-known, influential marketable personalities and trendsetters across the entertainment landscape. In music, Beyoncé is one of top three trendsetting artists in the entire pop genre. Will Smith is the third-most widely recognized actor working in film. Oprah Winfrey is viewed as the most influential media personality in television. And Michael Jordan, one of the most accomplished professional athletes of all time, is the highest marketable celebrity in all of sports.

African-Americans Make an Impact on Primetime TV

Since Nielsen’s State of the African-American Consumer report in 2011, the amount of African-American-themed TV content and programs with at least one black lead actor or actress has increased. African-American households earning more than $100,000 are 142% more likely than non-Hispanic whites to react positively about seeing other celebrities in the media who share their ethnic background, which was the highest of all income breaks, but the point holds across all incomes.

Actress Viola Davis, who plays Annalise Keating, the lead character in ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder, recently made history as the first African-American woman to win the “Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series” category at the 2015 Primetime Emmy Awards. But, that was not the only historic milestone for blacks that night. For the first time, two African-American women were nominated in this category. Joining Davis, Actress Taraji P. Henson, was nominated for her lead role as Cookie Lyon in FOX’s Empire. And, actress Uzo Aduba was the first actress to win two Primetime Emmy Awards in two different categories for her portrayal of the same role (“Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series,” 2014 and “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series,” 2015). Aduba plays Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black.

And for the first time, an African-American woman is the creator and executive producer for ABC’s entire Thursday primetime lineup. Shonda Rhimes is the creator and producer of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, as well as the executive producer for How to Get Away with Murder.

The Black Social Media Movement: Impactful, Cultural and Bold

In today’s digital age, online social networks have become the virtual water cooler, where all consumers exchange ideas, feelings, aspirations and plans. African-Americans are notably active on social media. In fact, blacks earning more than $75,000 spend an average of about 15 hours and 30 minutes on Facebook each month. In addition, blacks are using social networks to become their own publishers, sharing news and bringing widespread awareness to social issues and trends.

Hashtags Speak Volumes

African-Americans love their smartphones. In fact, smartphone penetration is 5% higher among blacks than the total population (83% vs. 78%). In looking at popular mobile apps, Twitter was the third-most used app among African-American households earning $100,000 or more, spending nearly two hours and about 13 sessions on the mobile Twitter app per month.

The #BlackTwitter phenomenon has become a platform full of cultural humor, entertainment, breaking news and trends, fed byb an influential cluster of users who consistently drive global trending topics and cultural conversations. The grassroots #BlackLivesMatter movement, which began as a hashtag in 2012 after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, is one of the most powerful examples of how social media conversations are effecting civic change. The hashtag has since become an ideological and political organization with a physical structure across the country working to bring societal improvement and change with more than 4.5 million mentions since August 2015. Here are some of the other most popular hashtags discussed by this powerful community.

For additional insights, download the Increasingly Affluent, Educated and Diverse: African-American Consumers–The Untold Story report.

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