raceAhead: New Nielsen Report Shows the Growing Power of The Black Consumer

African American consumers are digitally savvy and entrepreneurial, expert content creators, and are more likely than consumers of other races to raise their voices on every subject from products to brand behavior to social justice.

And they own all the technology.

In short, black folks are shaping important conversations about business, culture, tech, and public life in increasingly influential ways, and smart marketers need to take note.

These are some of the key takeaways from Nielsen’s latest report, released today, called “From Consumers to Creators: The Digital Lives of Black Consumers.” It is the eighth annual report in Nielsen’s Diverse Intelligence Series on African American consumers, and it is not to be missed. (Nielsen produces annual reports for Hispanic/Latinx and Asian Pacific American consumers, as well.)

It’s also worth noting that influence comes with a price tag.

The buying power of this cohort is expected to rise from $1.3 trillion in 2017 to $1.54 trillion in 2022 – and will continue to outpace the spending of the total national population. (Politicos may want to take note: African-Americans have the highest buying power in Texas, $117 billion; New York, $116 billion; California, $93 billion; with Georgia & Florida tied at $90 billion.)

In a broad sense, what they’re looking for is equity, suggests authors Cheryl Grace, Nielsen’s Senior Vice President, U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement along with Andrew McCaskill, Senior Vice President, Global Communications and Multicultural Marketing; and Mia K. Scott-Aime, Vice President, Communications, in analysis that absolutely must be read.

“Acutely aware of Black history and bounding toward a technology-enabled future, African Americans are leaning into the democratization of digital platforms to circumvent old standards of information and idea sharing as they demand more reciprocal commerce,” they write.

By all means, dig into the numbers, there are plenty of them for you to parse. For example, African American households outpace all other demographics in mobile, tablet, smart TV, smart speaker, and gaming console ownership. We get tech.

But Nielsen’s data ultimately makes the case that black consumers, using an influence informed by identity and values, increasingly expect brands to earn their business by being authentic, socially aware, and responsible. (The section on Black Twitter is particularly compelling.) We’re not looking for a logo to help us assimilate, no, no, no.

“Through social media, Black consumers have brokered a seat at the table and are demanding that brands and marketers speak to them in ways that resonate culturally and experientially—if these brands want their business,” they write.

On Point

Life in the Les Moonves eraThe trickle of stories has turned into a stream; tales of abuse that includes sexual assault, vindictive behavior and a deep-seated misogyny that shaped the network he led. This story from Linda Bloodworth Thomason, the prolific hit-maker behind Designing Women and Evening Shade, had an ambitious contract and big plans with CBS when Les Moonves took over as president in 1995. He hated her, hated the opinionated women she portrayed, and began systematically sidelining female-centric programming until the stories and characters had all but disappeared. His programming choices matched his reputation. “For years, Moonves loaded up the network with highly profitable, male-dominated series…mostly, he presided over a plethora of macho crime shows featuring a virtual genocide of dead naked hotties in morgue drawers, with sadistic female autopsy reports, ratcheted up each week,” she writes.Hollywood Reporter

CEO turnover reaches an all-time high, some good news for women executives
The interesting twist -  more women are stepping into the top spot. In August, 154 CEOs left their roles, according to a report by global outplacement consultancy and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, 64% higher than July. Though female leadership is shrinking in the Fortune 500 cohort, there’s actually some good news if you include smaller companies in the analysis. Of the 879 CEO departures so far this year, 152 were women – but so were 161 incoming CEOs. Those 161 women account for 22% of 716 total announced CEO replacements so far.

Rihanna gives a master class in body positivity and inclusivity in fashion
The mega-star and Fenty founder closed out New York Fashion Week with the debut of her Savage x Fenty lingerie collection, which was held in Brooklyn and live-streamed for all the world to see. (There’s also a pop-up store in NYC opening today.) Fader has a great recap of images and video, which shows one of the most diverse array of models in a runway setting. There was even a very pregnant model! I didn’t see any models with disabilities, though I may have missed something. Enjoy. More borderline safe for work photos here.

Not gonna do it
Ben Zahn, the mayor of Kenner, a New Orleans suburb, was so incensed by Nike’s recent decision to make Colin Kaepernick the face of their “Just Do It” anniversary campaign, that he forbade the city’s recreation department from purchasing Nike products for Kenner’s nine youth playgrounds. After consulting with the city’s attorney, Zahn has juked back to the sidelines and taken a knee of his own. The ban "placed Kenner in a false and unflattering light on the national stage," he said."The reversal of this ban is good news for the people of Kenner and all Louisianians, who have a constitutional right to express their political views free from government censorship or discrimination," Alanah Odoms Hebert, the executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana. Can we go play now? said the kids.


The Woke Leader

House of Representative staffers are mostly white, even when they represent diverse districts
According to a report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released this week, almost three-quarters of House members — 313 in all —have no top staffers of color. According to their survey, there are no Latinx, AAPIs, or Native Americans at all in key roles, which they define as full committee staff directors, leadership office chiefs of staff, policy directors, or communications directors. The report lists a series of remedies you should review, which includes bias mitigation training, instituting a Rooney Rule variation, and focus on developing mid-level leaders. But one stands out in particular: Recruit interns of color and pay them.
Joint Center

Ferguson Library’s book club on race
The Ferguson Library in Ferguson, Mo. is a wonderful place. Their equally wonderful librarian, Scott Bonner, is a joy to follow on Twitter, and he recently posted the library’s monthly book club selections, a longstanding series which focuses on race. Community members read a different book and meet the second Monday of every month to discuss. September’s selection: The Color of Law: A ‘Forgotten History’ of How the U.S. Government Segregated America, by Richard Rosenstein. “Broadly, white people have 1 conversation about race and black people have another, and we talk past each other because we don't have a shared understanding,” he tweeted. “A book provides that common language and shared knowledge. It allows us to listen to each other.”
Ferguson Library Readings on Race

On apologies owed, wrongs never righted
Brittany Packnett delves into the riveting moment when Serena Williams, one of the most accomplished athletes of all time, drew a line in the sand for all the world to see. When she was accused of cheating, she pushed back: “You owe me an apology,” said Williams. Forget the rest of the drama, says Packnett, “the most striking lesson I derived from all of this was a profound life lesson: demand the apologies you deserve.” Packnett notes with discernable emotion, that she has never uttered this phrase. She never thought she deserved one. “But the idea that someone would need to affirm responsibility for their actions and impact on me had just never occurred to me,” she writes. “I have quietly carried the scars of apologies desired but never received, seething with resentment but never questioning why I didn't demand an apology in the first place.”


When you asked why I was crying at the end of that Pixar movie, I should have said, "Pixar movies always call up a complicated nexus of emotions in me, making me recall ancient hurts and losses that have gradually lost their ability to sting ever since I have been blessed by your appearance in my life." I should have said that instead of telling you that "I got some butter substitute in my eye" from our tub of popcorn. I will strive to be more honest in the future.
Colson Whitehead, with six belated apologies to his daughter

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