Marketers know all about Black History Month and often run special promotions every February to reach African American consumers. But recent studies show the rising economic power of this demographic group which is expected to make up 13.8% of the total U.S. population by 2015. As a result, marketers are reconsidering the way they’ve been targeting African Americans.

A new report by the National Newspaper Publishers Association indicates that African American consumers will control buying power of $1.1 trillion in 2015. Historically, marketers have reached this audience through traditional media buys that looked something like this (2010 data):

  •  National TV $916 million
  • Spot radio $704 million
  • National magazine $362 million

New numbers from Nielsen point out that marketers should approach African American consumers in new ways. The typical African American watches a total of 7 hours and 12 minutes of TV daily, compared to 5 hours and 11 minutes for the average consumer. But African Americans are changing their education and economic profile and as they do, they’ll be consuming media differently. About 44% of men and 53% of women either have a college degree or are studying for one. The higher education rates are translating into higher household incomes. Of the 13.5 million African American household in the U.S., 4.4 million, or over 30%, have incomes exceeding $50,000.

This group has a higher than average smartphone penetration rate. To date, about 44% of these consumers who have mobile phones own smartphones, compared to 36% of other consumers. Android is the preferred operating system for 37% of African American smartphone users with RIM/Blackberry coming in at 30%. In this market, Apple only has a 16% penetration rate. African Americans are also more like than other demographic groups to use Twitter and many visit social networking sites regularly.

As these consumers grow more digital, marketers will need to shift promotional strategies to online and mobile formats to tap the larger income streams coming into African American households.

[Sources:  The State of the African American Consumer. September 2011. Web. 17 Oct. 2011; African Americans Wield Considerable Consumer Power. National Newspaper Publishers Associations. NNPA.org. Web. 17 Oct. 2011]