In a timely attempt to understand whether Black consumers are feeling the love from the brands and influencers they support the most, Bold Culture launched a survey to capture sentiments around the notion of representation. As a companion piece that can be read alongside Nielsen’s Diverse Intelligence Series, this survey’s qualitative results show that companies must figure out brand representation if they want to obtain and retain Black customers. There is no patience for ad companies that pontificate over whether representation means visuals or reputation; Black people say they are one in the same. In the United States, much of 2020 as the year of racial reckoning has come in the form of demanding that people of color, and Black people specifically, see themselves in all aspects of the companies that want their dollars. This has meant more models, subcontractors, employees, and leadership teams are Black and Brown. Companies are being held accountable for divesting from cities and entities that have policies or practices that do not pass the anti-racism smell test. The data below shows that for-profit entities have made some ethical shifts, but in the media and advertising space it remains to be seen if Black consumers are really buying it.
Of the 238 people who responded to the online survey on representation in media & advertising, 120 identified as Black and 93 identified as White. When asked if they feel represented by the last five social media ads they saw, 20.91% of Black people said No, 25.45% said Slightly, and 53.64% said Yes.
In comparison, only 2.17% of their White counterparts felt that they were not represented, 9.78% felt slightly represented, and 88.04% said they felt represented in the ads they saw. When asked if they felt compelled to make a purchase from those same ads, 32% were not compelled, 15% were slightly compelled, and 51% were convinced to buy. Stacked against White peers who answered the same question, 14% were not compelled, 2% were slightly compelled, and a whopping 83% were convinced.
53% of Black respondents feel represented in the past five campaigns that they have encountered on social media as compared to 81% of white respondents. What this means is that only a slim majority of Black people can see themselves reflected in the brands that consider them a target customer. That slim majority becomes razor thin (51%) when converting ads to sales. Around 83% of White respondents feel represented and made a purchase, which means that there is a 30% wedge dividing the two groups. When respondents were asked to include print and TV, the gap between racial groups widens to nearly 40%. What makes this disparity so disturbing is that social media is often actively curated by the user (follows, likes, and saves) or passively curated by algorithms that claim to understand user behaviors and demographics. If our smart phones aren’t smart enough to segment ads in a convincing way, then marketers and advertisers have to become agents of change if they want to capture Black dollars.
What do advertisers need to know about Black consumers?
When asked about the tropes that advertisers need to leave behind in 2021, respondents said:
· Black people of all gender identities are tired of being sexualized.
· Racial ambiguity is not an endorsement of Blackness.
· Fair skinned POCs are no substitute for undeniably Black (dark-skinned) models.
· In ads, interracial couples are a welcomed improvement over exclusively all White families; however, Black people want to see more all Black nuclear and extended families.
· Black Queer, non-binary, gender non-conforming, & LGBTQIA+ individuals are over being left out. There are more Black LGBTQIA+ allies out there than you might think.
How can Black inclusion be normalized within your brand identity?
Whether you write copy, consider yourself an influencer, or are charged with transforming spaces through DEI, the simple take away is that Black people want to see more Black people: Black people of different body types, Black people in love (not lust) with other Black people, and Black families that are clearly Black. That said, respondents do not want
Black mainstreaming to come at the expense of other groups. Consider these approaches to ad inclusion:
· Micro-segmented advertising based on geocoding, user data, and demographic trends.
· Increase credibility by increasing Black employees’ visibility to the public.
· Reflect diverse religious, gender, sexuality intersectionality among Black people.