Inventing the Black Consumer Market
TODAY, as retailers and advertising agencies scramble to find ways to appeal to Black consumers, one might assume that corporate America's belief in the value and vitality of that market segment is deeply rooted.
Yet, in the comparatively unenlightened age in which Johnson Publishing Co. was launched, the notion that Black consumers were worth the time and attention of White advertisers was practically revolutionary. It took JPC founder and chairman John H. Johnson to demonstrate that Blacks not only shop, but are also discriminating, status-conscious consumers who, on the average, purchase more name-brand, top-of-the-line products than their White counterparts.
The upshot ofJPCs pioneering efforts was the "discovery"--some experts say invention--of the Black consumer market, an untapped gold mine of customers.
Long ignored by many White merchants and manufacturers, Black consumers are now estimated to have, in aggregate, more than $270 billion worth of buying power, according to statistics provided by Andrew Brimmer & Associates, a Washington, D.C., consulting and marketing firm. And, even in the face of unequal opportunity, the persistence of racism, and disproportionate representation among the nation's poor, experts predict that Black America's collective disposable income--barring the total collapse of the economy--will grow to nearly $650 billion by the year 2000 when a non White majority will be the principal consumers in the nation's largest metropolitan areas.
"Despite the presence of an urban class that is mired in poverty, the Black middle class has continued to grow in numbers and buying power," says Dr. Brimmer, "and will be an even more substantial force in the marketplace by the turn of the century."
Still, convincing prospective advertisers of the viability of the Black consumer market has not been easy. Johnson Publishing Co. 's crusade to open corporate America's eyes began almost at the inception of the company. As far back as 1947--when scarcely an ad featuring or appealing to Blacks could be found in any medium--Publisher Johnson was writing in EBONY's Backstage column about the enormity of the market and the boon that could be reaped by any advertiser smart enough to target it. …