Black History Month is not just a celebration of Black Joy, it’s also the time of year when brands pander to their black consumers the most. We all remember when Bath & Body Works decided to slap tribal designs and kente cloth prints on already existing fragrances, or when Target faced backlash for their tone-deaf Black History Month graphic tees. BHM marketing has not had a good rapport with Black consumers in recent years. Finding this type of marketing to be off-putting and inauthentic, why are these brands continuously missing the mark?
As of 2021, the US Census Bureau estimates African Americans make up 13.6% of the U.S. population. While this positions us as a minority, we still hold an exceedingly influential position in the retail marketplace. The African American population is expected to see significant growth between now and the year 2050. As our population continues to increase, so will our buying power.
In 2022, Black America’s spending power reached a record high of $1.6 trillion, and no, all of that spending did not just happen in February. We see these companies try to give it their all during BHM to gain the Black dollar. After, we see them pay us dust during the other eleven months out of the year. We don’t need to see ads suddenly featuring Black people when your company has never done it before nor flashy African inspired prints or shirts that say things like “Fight the Power” with a fist. What we need to see is authentic marketing that is relatable and impactful.
Authentic marketing begins with knowing your audience. It’d serve brands well to know who they’re selling to and how they should sell to them. Black consumers want to see campaigns that they can resonate with and it shouldn’t feel performative – and don’t even get us started about social media.
What would social media be without Black people? Our trends catch on like wildfire via various platforms, yet we’re marketed to the least. Influencers have been bringing awareness to the fact that there’s been a shortage of campaign opportunities this month, of all months. There’s just no excuse for that. Show us that you care about our voices and our culture. That’s how you make a key connection with our community.
It’s imperative these actions last beyond February. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to exhibit diversity initiatives within your company. Representation is everything to our community and we can spot fakeness from a mile away. This is how you build a lifelong customer that feels valued when they choose to spend their hard earned money on your product. Let’s face it, we like to spend money too but we want to spend our dollars with companies that possess our principles, ethics, and morals. Brands like Old Navy and Home Depot are initiating change by donating their dollars to Black owned businesses and HBCUs. These are the types of companies we want to spend our money with because they display being invested in our excellence.
Black History Month also provides brands with an inopportune time to show they stand in solidarity with our community. Don’t just talk about it, be about it. Imagine the type of good that could come from partnering with or highlighting Black owned businesses. Black people have been overlooked and unappreciated for generations and we still are even in this day and age. Our dollars matter all year long. Alongside our culture, our voices, and our beliefs.