More Than the Struggle: Black/African American Consumers + The Luxurious Life
Associate, C+R Alum
You see it often nowadays. Scrolling through social media, you watch videos shared by people treating themselves to high-end gifts, exciting destination trips, fine dining, and pampering themselves with lavish self-care routines. This luxury lifestyle has long been an aspiration of many, including Blacks/African Americans. Erroneously, however, Black/African American people are not commonly top-of-mind among those who are considered to indulge in these luxuries due to misconceptions about affordability or their level of interest in this space.
The absence of representation in media can contribute to why some Blacks/African Americans may not see themselves in these spaces, and more importantly, why your brand isn’t top-of-mind when they consider partaking in some of these luxuries. In an article published by Byrdie entitled, Black Women Love and Deserve Luxury Fashion, Too, it speaks to how Blacks/African Americans are indulging in the luxury space, a space where they have not always been considered to be patrons. The article also shares an Instagram video post by author, Candice Brathwaite, on how she was conflicted about seeing herself in this space due to the influences brought on by a combination of stereotypes and lack of positive media representation. This showcases why it’s so important for brands to make sure that their advertising is INclusive; as advertising that is not inclusive becomes EXclusive by default.
Today, there is a new age that exists where #blackluxury and #blackgirlluxury are popular discussions on social media. Luxury for the Black/African American community can include fashion, travel, and even residential luxury, like residing in a lush apartment in the center of Manhattan. These are things that come immediately to mind when considering the menu of luxury items; however, for the Black/African American community, luxurious living also encompasses self-care and grooming, including skincare routines, hair care, and more. Nielsen reported that in 2017, Black shoppers accounted for more than 11% of the total spend on hair care and were more than notable contributors to spending in the grooming and skincare categories as well. It’s a way for them to celebrate growth and success and to live their best lives. It’s a giant leap from long-held stereotypes and a firm embrace of a new movement.
During Black History Month in 2021, the Robb Report, which focuses on the luxury space, called out some Black/African American visionaries in this space. These visionaries were likely inspired by some of the Black/African American pioneers responsible for building this road to Black Luxury, like Annie Turnbo Malone and Madam C.J. Walker, who developed a number of hair care and beauty products for Blacks/African Americans, to the point of becoming millionaires. Another pioneer, recently deceased fashion icon, André Leon Talley, was the first Black/African American to become a creative editor at Vogue. He inspired and paved the way for other Black/African American creatives all over the world in an industry that is often criticized for its lack of diversity. Black History Month is the perfect time for marketers to honor the history makers by acknowledging their longevity in a space that, through time, many may have forgotten was occupied by members of the Black/African American community. Today, more than ever, Blacks/African Americans are seeing themselves in the luxury space and have the purchasing power to be there. Thus, the more representation they see in this space, the greater the likelihood that even more will choose to indulge.
Misconceptions vs Facts:
There is unconscious bias around Black/African American people and where they live, how they live, and the ways they make their living. They can often be depicted as low income, welfare-assisted, the underclass, or lower income. But the truth of the matter is, Black/African American people have come a long way and want to be recognized for where they are now rather than continuously focusing on what they’ve been through. Now, I’m not saying that as a community they don’t have their fair share of struggle, they have pushed through to get where they are and showed strength in difficult times, but the “Black struggle” has too long been used to define Blacks/African Americans. Throughout social media, Blacks/African Americans are sharing information on financial success, building businesses and real estate, internal growth and healing, and creating spaces that elevate Black/African Americans within the community to the positions and status that they desire. The Black/African American community is taking back their narrative, imagining new possibilities, and rewriting their stories into a vision that depicts prosperity and wellness. They are normalizing their success, wealth, and comfort within the community.
Blacks/African Americans are realizing that “Hey, I deserve it too. I deserve the same luxuries and comfort as my counterparts.” The idea that Blacks/African Americans lack the buying power to afford luxury living is a myth that has altered the way people may perceive them. In reality, they are growing within their fields of profession and deal with the same stressors as well as outside elements that encourage the need for leisure moments. Like other cultural groups, they look for those same indulgences that help them to enjoy the fruits of their labor and to de-stress from their professions.
According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, “Black buying power was $1.6 trillion in 2020. That’s higher than the gross domestic product of Mexico. It’s projected to grow to $1.8 trillion by 2024; that growth is outpacing White buying power. Between 2000 and 2018, Black/African American buying power rose 114%, compared to an 89% increase in White buying power.”
Focus on Inclusivity + Accessibility—Establish more than a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy that shows more diversity and inclusivity within your campaigns. Illustrate an array of different cultures and backgrounds within the Black/African American community and allow Blacks/African Americans to see themselves in these luxury settings, thereby creating more accessible products and services.
Showcase Blacks/African Americans in a Positive Light in Your Advertising Campaigns—Although the Black Experience in America has been a very real and palpable struggle, shine a light on more than the struggle by highlighting the progress and victories that Blacks/African Americans have achieved. The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, said it best. . .show some R-E-S-P-E-C-T! It’s not enough to just show African Americans in your campaigns but do so by incorporating authentic stories in your advertising that recognize where Blacks/African Americans are today, professionally and financially, and by celebrating these achievements.
Highlight Categories that Blacks/African Americans Prioritize and Where They Are Historically Shown to Willingly Invest —for instance, the hygiene, grooming, and fashion space where Blacks/African Americans over-index.
Actively Support and Contribute to the Black/African American Community—Go beyond sharing a social post or only showing support during Black History Month – they are Black/African American more than just the month of February. Develop a deeper connection with the community by uplifting and collaborating with Black/African American businesses and creatives. Making an effort to partner with members of the community will broaden your own views as well as create a more genuine experience for your audience.