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Marketers Should Show More Respect for the Black Consumer, According to a Report

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Take a look at how African Americans make their decisions, whether it’s physically or digitally… what we found is that when it comes to making decisions, we abundantly are going to use recommendations as our first line of research,” Cheryl Grace, Nielsen’s Senior Vice President of U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement, told NNPA Newswire.

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African Americans are more likely than the total population to agree that advertising provides meaningful information on most platforms, the report noted. But advertising dollars designed to reach Black consumers declined by $1 billion between 2017 and 2018, according to the report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The influence of African American consumers is extensive.

Driven by their tech affinity, passion for sharing experiences, and powered by their omnichannel thirst for information and recommendations, the nation’s 48 million Black Americans are now just approaching their peak earning years, according to the Nielsen report, “It’s in the Bag: Black Consumers’ Path to Purchase.”

The report noted that African Americans are adopting and adapting media and technology in their shopping journey to fit their unique needs and culture. African Americans love the latest trends.

The 50-page report suggests that marketers should be aware that African Americans demand that product information and feedback opportunities integrate across multiple media channels.

African Americans are more likely than the total population to agree that advertising provides meaningful information on most platforms. However, companies that advertise directly to Blacks have decreased their investments. Advertising dollars targeted to Black consumers declined by $1 billion between 2017 and 2018, according to the Neilson report.

Nearly 40 percent of Black consumers saying that they are the first among their friends to try new products and services, surpassing the total population by 29 percent.

“Take a look at how African Americans make their decisions, whether it’s physically or digitally… what we found is that when it comes to making decisions, we abundantly are going to use recommendations as our first line of research,” Cheryl Grace, Nielsen’s Senior Vice President of U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement, told NNPA Newswire.

“African Americans rely on recommendations, and that’s interesting,” Grace stated.

The report’s authors said Black Americans are 48 million strong, with nearly 25 million being millennial age or younger as of 2018.

However, they are already dominating industries from music to fashion, and many others.

African Americans also are creating apps and digital spaces to serve their own unique needs when the opportunity demands it, according to the report.

“In a world bombarded by constant new media options and technologies, companies that want African American consumers’ dollars must understand what most influences these consumers and how they influence others on their path to purchase,” Grace stated.

“Developing authentic strategies that evolve from listening to Black consumers’ needs and demands is not only the best way — but the only way — for brands to realize the powerful growth opportunity ahead.”

“African Americans have a $1.3 trillion annual buying power, and we watch 15 hours or more every week of traditional television,” Grace stated.

“You can reach 92 percent of African Americans in any given week on the radio. When you look at radio, and you compare the consumption habits of how much time we’re spending across these platforms, you’ll see that the advertising spent with African American-focused media doesn’t necessarily add up,” Grace noted.

Part of that problem is the lack of diversity at advertising agencies, she stated.

“There need to be more people of color in those firms,” Grace stated.

Perhaps a more diverse and inclusive workforce would enable marketers to better appreciate that African American interests are not monolithic. They encompass everything from good food, great music and the latest fashion trends to healthcare and the environment.

While climate change and protecting the environment is more vital than ever, African Americans typically are forgotten in the conversation. “African American shoppers are increasingly passionate about their environment, including buying local,” the report’s authors noted.

When asked, “how important is it to buy local” in multiple food categories, African American consumers named produce as the most important category for local sourcing.

Sixty-one percent said it was extremely or very important, followed by bakery and prepared foods at 56 percent, eggs at 55 percent, and dairy at 52 percent.

Understanding the environmental and safety concerns of Black consumers can help marketers understand what matters most to African Americans consumers in making decisions along their shopper journey, the report’s authors said.

The top 3 environmental/food safety concerns among Black consumers are: “Pesticide/ herbicide use in food production” (76 percent), “Antibiotic use in animal production” (71 percent), and “Rising prices due to trade tariffs” (68 percent – 21 percent higher than the total population).

The report concluded that the African American path to purchase is social and circular, with the transaction being a critical step in the process before consumers express their passionate feedback about their experience, be it positive or negative.

“Brick and mortar stores, online retailers and service providers should each strive to provide an experience that not only satisfies Black consumers, but creates buzzworthy raves that will quickly be passed on to friends, family and virtual networks in their discovery, awareness, and decision making processes,” the authors wrote.

“Developing strategies to connect with African American consumers, and assuring that their culture is understood and respected, as well as assuring that their expectations are exceeded, will provide far-reaching influence and growth throughout all consumers for many years to come in the evolving American mainstream,” Grace stated.

To view the full report, click here.

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U.S. Business Leaders Step Up to Fight Inequities in the South

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

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Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr./ NNPA Newswire

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

This toxic atmosphere has left them incapable of addressing pressing, yet ingrained issues like the racial wealth gap, the digital divide, and vast inequalities in everything from health care to home ownership.

With COVID-19 still an omnipresent concern and the country’s recovery still very much in jeopardy, individuals, families, and communities – particularly communities of color throughout the South – are struggling to deal with issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

From impediments to wealth creation opportunities and a dearth of education and workforce development to a lack of access to reliable broadband, substandard housing, and inadequate political representation, communities of color have suffered an outsized toll during the ongoing public health crisis.

Yet political leaders can’t even agree on basic facts that would allow the nation to implement a coherent national strategy for combatting a pandemic that appears to be entering a new wave amid the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant that is currently ravaging parts of the South.

Against that disillusioning backdrop, there is at least some reason for hope. Moving to fill the vacuum created by the inaction of our political class, a group of business leaders in the technology and investment sectors have embarked on a far-reaching – and perhaps unprecedented – campaign to address the social inequities and systemic racism that has historically plagued our country’s southern communities.

Known as the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI), the campaign was founded by financial technology company PayPal, the investment firm Vista Equity Partners (Vista), and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

SCI was formed to work with local elected officials and advocacy groups to tackle the ubiquitous problems of structural racism and inequalities facing communities of color in six communities throughout the South. SCI notes that these areas – Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C., Houston, Texas, Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, La., – were chosen in part because they are home to around 50% of the country’s Black population and are where some of the greatest disparities exist.

SCI is aiming to drive long-term change, as outlined by PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, Vista CEO Robert F. Smith and BCG CEO Rich Lesser. 

In Atlanta, for example, SCI is working to bridge the wealth gap that exists among the region’s African-American residents. While there is a strong Black business community in the city, and high levels of Black educational achievement thanks to the regional presence of several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the voice of the Black press, there is still an extremely low level of Black entrepreneurship and business ownership with only 6% of employer firms being Black-owned.

To remedy this disparity, SCI is working with the Southern Economic Advancement Project to create entrepreneurship hubs and accelerator programs to increase the number of minority-owned businesses. The corporations behind SCI are also using their networks to help other companies work with minority-owned supply companies.

In Alabama, SCI is seeking to bridge the massive digital divide in an urban area where 450,000 households are without connection to the internet. In order to tackle the crisis, SCI is leveraging relationships with local schools and libraries to distribute laptops and service vouchers. Another tact SCI is taking is to partner with the owners of multi-unit buildings in low-income neighborhoods to install free public Wi-Fi for residents.

The lack of access to capital is another reason Black communities throughout the South have been traditionally underbanked. In Memphis, where 47% of Black households are underbanked, SCI is partnering with Grameen America to cover the $2 million per year per branch start-up cost to build brick-and-mortar banks in minority communities.

This alone will provide 20,000 women access to more than $250 million per year in financing.

Beyond these initiatives, SCI is partnering with groups like the Greater Houston Partnership and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide in-kind support to improve job outcomes for minority college students, expand access to home financing through partnerships with community development financial institutions, and harness the power of technology to expand health care access in underserved urban and rural neighborhoods.

The issues facing these communities throughout the South are not new nor will they be fixed overnight.

Fortunately, SCI is taking a long-term approach that is focused on getting to the root of structural racism in the United States and creating a more just and equitable country for every American.

A once-in-a-century pandemic and a social justice movement not seen since the 1960s were not enough to break the malaise and rancorous partisanship in Washington. Fortunately, corporate leaders are stepping up and partnering with local advocates and non-profit groups to fix the problem of systemic injustice in the U.S.

We, therefore, salute and welcome the transformative commitments of the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI). There is no time to delay, because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so accurately said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

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NNPA – Black Press w/ Hendriks Video Interview

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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