Corporate reputation, particularly factors such as hiring practices and the treatment of minority employees, is a major factor in the purchasing decisions of African Americans, according to a survey conducted by the African American Markets Group at Ketchum Public Relations in conjunction with Florida A&M University’s School of Business. Other important factors include community involvement and advertising and editorial coverage in black media.
The research, which included a series of focus groups with African Americans in three cities and a telephone survey of more than 500 adults, found that African Americans trust black media and Consumer Reports more than any other source for company specific information. Editorial content in black media is less likely to be slanted, consumers believe, while ads in black media are seen as a symbolic invitation the company is making to African American customers.
However, companies need to go beyond token gestures to earn the loyalty of black consumers. African American consumers are attracted to brands that offer high quality at reasonable prices, have good customer service policies, and give back to the community in terms of employment opportunities, educational contributions, and general philanthropy.
“It’s important for companies and marketers to understand the obvious and subtle factors African Americans consider when choosing to buy their products or services,” says Betsy Helgager, vice president of Ketchum’s AAMG. “Understanding those factors will help them effectively reach the largest ethnic group in the country, with 32 million consumers and a buying power of $500 billion.”
Other findings of the research included:
·         Four out of five adults surveyed said they would be more likely to buy products from companies that have a long-standing reputation for supporting the African American community.
·         Most participants in the focus groups said they are willing to take part in boycotts and will refuse to do business with companies that discriminate, regardless of remedial action.
·         Survey respondents said they tried to do business with companies that have special African American product lines, including greeting cards, toys, and holiday items.
·         Three out of four survey respondents said they were more likely to buy from companies that feature African Americans in their advertising.
Says Helgager, “The results clearly indicate that African American consumers like to be recognized, valued and invited to participate in the purchasing process. A comprehensive, integrated outreach that takes into consideration key factors affecting purchasing decisions and brand loyalty will reap the greatest rewards.”