Understanding Advertising Authenticity By GenerationTags: Black boomers, culture, generations, GenX, millenials
SUBMITTED BY: Yahoo / Mindshare / Added Value
Consumers are exposed to thousands of ads in a given day. As marketers seek to truly connect with African American consumers in more relevant and authentic ways, it’s critically important that they deliver the right message, in the right tone, with the right resonance.
SEGMENTING BY GENERATION
What makes marketing to the African American consumer even more challenging is the segmentation that is happening by generation. According to the US Census, nearly half of all African Americans are younger than 29, representing ~19M US consumers.
African American Millennials have been raised in a more inclusive multi-cultural, digitally-influenced environment. It is often thought that that they are more likely to be connected to and influenced by members of their generation rather than they are their ethnic culture.
Yahoo, in collaboration with Mindshare & Added Value, released a study called Ethnodynamics: Marketing to African Americans. The study set out to answer the drivers of African American identity and how ethnicity impacts consumer behavior and advertising preferences. Results were reported in total and by generations: Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, and Millennials. The findings challenge the idea of a one-size fits all approach to marketing to African American consumers. African American consumers, as a group, are not homogenous. Affinity for their ethnic identity is strong across segments but there are differences in how it is expressed. Deeper understanding is needed.
ETHNICITY – CORE TO IDENTITY
When compared to the general population (GP), African Americans (AA) are significantly more likely to state that ethnicity plays a critical role in forming their identity. Seventy percent of AA’s said that ethnicity is a significant part of my identity compared to forty-eight percent of the GP. 82% of AA’s also said I am proud of ethnic identity compared to 70% of the GP.
WITH AGE COMES A HEIGHTENED SENSE OF ETHNIC IDENTITY
Clearly, overall pride in ethnic identity is high. However when broken out by generations, we see pronounced differences that grow with age. It is not surprising that with age comes a greater appreciation for heritage and culture, but what might come as a surprise is that nearly three-quarters of Millennials are as proud of their ethnicity.
INTERNAL VERSUS EXTERNAL EXPRESSIONS OF ETHNICITY
Millennials are more expressive when it comes to ethnicity. 64% of Millennials say that ethnicity influence the way they talk to close family and friends versus 45% of AA boomers and 57% of Gen X’ers.
Ethnic expression is also manifested through content choices of African Americans. The report presented data that showed that AA Millennials, when compared to Gen X’ers and Boomers, are more likely to state that ethnicity impacts nearly all of their digital content choices, from news, to culture, lifestyle, and even shopping/product category information. Digital content and communication can provide a valuable platform to engage with younger African Americans.
THE TAKEAWAY: Understand the generational segmentation of African American consumers, specifically, how different generations choose to express their ethnic identity through content.
FEELING UNDERREPRESENTED & MISUNDERSTOOD
To successfully market to the African American community, marketers need to be sensitive to how African Americans feel about media and marketing. The fact is 38% of African Americans feel underrepresented in media. 25% of African Americans feel that many ads targeted to AAs are offensive. Only 26% currently feel that ads do a good job speaking to their ethnicity.
As US Census Director, Dr. Robert Graves says, “the delivering of a message about a product or a service is best done when the advertiser understands the lens through which a consumer is viewing both the culture they’re in … and how their own experiences map onto it”
As a result, here are some best practices the Yahoo! study found to better market to this group:
1. There is a call for representing diversity, especially for older African Americans
When asked how much African Americans agreed that ads would be better if they showed larger diversity, the highest level of agreement wasn’t among AA Millennials but among Boomers (Millennials: 62%; Gen X’ers: 75%; Boomers: 80%).
2. Just including African Americans in ads is not the same as reflecting their lives and values
The Yahoo study makes it clear that it is more than just seeing diversity in ads – it’s what the message of the ad represents: their values and their culture. When asked whether they appreciate seeing ads that accurately reflect their ethnic values, 77% of AA Boomers, 71% of Gen X’ers, and 54% of Millennials strongly agreed with this statement.
About half of AA’s also believe that ads currently reflect a “superficial understanding” and that “advertising does not depict my ethnic values at a deep level” (Boomers: 55%; Gen X’ers: 52%: Millennials: 45%).
3. Ethnicity is more important in some categories than others. Knowing when and how to use targeted marketing is critical:
AA’s stated that there were a number of categories where targeting made sense to them in terms of their ethnicity. The Yahoo study reports that:
“What goes on the body is extremely important for all African Americans. Health, skin care, hair care and personal care products are extremely impacted by ethnicity regardless of age.
As one consumer states, “[Showcasing ethnicity] is important dependent on the product. If I see a shampoo commercial I’m…not going to purchase it if Eva Longoria is in it, BUT if Queen Latifah is then I might…Something like Dr. Scholl’s doesn’t really matter. Feet are feet.”
However, Boomers are significantly more likely than Gen X and Millennials to desire ethnic targeting across the 30 some odd categories studied.
4. When all else fails, go positive.
AA’s want a “true understanding” which translates into “celebrating my ethnic diversity in a relevant way” rather than a “superficial understanding that “makes me look bad in front of others.”
Part of that understanding is the obvious: staying away from negative stereotypes. Advertising is more powerful when it showcases positivity and gives the African American community something to be proud of.
While some may argue for the cost effectiveness of a single marketing and strategy voice when addressing the African American consumer, the data suggest a more sensitive reading of African Americans would be more fruitful. They want to see themselves accurately represented as part of the fabric of America, but that is not the same as saying that they reject unique ethnic marketing approaches. In fact, 56% state that they notice products and brands that make the effort to reach my ethnicity through advertising. When a brand does it right, over half will pay-it-forward with positive worth of mouth.
“When marketing to African Americans, pay attention to the ethnic drivers that impact this audience…”