For Us, by Them?: A Study on Black Consumer Identity and Brand Preference
Blacks in the United States reportedly spend over $1.2 trillion annually with projected spending of nearly $2 trillion by 2021. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the number of Blacks in the U.S. will reach 61.4 million by 2050, making this group an ideal target for researchers, marketers, advertisers and others to maximize on Black spending patterns.
Given this growth in numbers and spending power, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications doctoral students Yewande O. Addie, Brett Ball and Kelsy-Ann Adams wanted to understand how mainstream brands are creating products, messaging, and distinctive campaigns for targeted ethnic audiences. Specifically, their research looks at Black female consumers and their selection of personal hair care brands based on cultural perception and sense of identity.
The authors found that consumers will be drawn to purchase items from a company that more closely aligns with their own identity. And although Black women remain a critical economic driver, they report feeling undervalued and inauthentically represented by brands.
Beauty products are specifically believed to be an extension of how one expresses their sense of self. As a result, there needs to be a strong relationship between a company’s brand and how the consumer identifies with the company if a product is going to be successful with a specific demographic. As the study shows, when confronted with the choice of deciding between products from Shea Moisture, a Black-founded brand that is perceived to still be Black-owned, or the Pantene Gold Series Collection, a mainstream haircare collection that targets Black women, Black women gravitated toward Shea Moisture. This finding indicates that the brand identity communicated to Black female consumers in the study had a greater influence on brand preference and ultimately their intention to purchase.
Despite Shea Moisture having been bought by Unilever, the brand’s co-founder’s strong connection to relevant cultural cues remained a key selling point for Black women.
The researchers believe that future research should expand the national conversation about diversity through a myriad of sub-disciplines like health, politics, and entertainment. Also, ethnic attitudes toward additional elements of consumer identity and spending warrant further review, such as how Black females are marketed to and whether the products they choose to purchase support their self-concept.
Authors: Yewande O. Addie, Brett Ball, Kelsy-Ann Adams
This article, For Us, by Them?: A Study on Black Consumer Identity Congruence & Brand Preference,” originally appeared in the Howard Journal of Communications, published online on Nov. 29, 2019.
The summary was written by Dana Hackley, Ph.D.