Books@Daily Finance: Marketing to Well-Heeled African Americans

Go to any newsstand, and you will see a clear demonstration of market segmentation: There are specialty magazines aimed at brides, fly fishermen, sports car enthusiasts, Latino moms, and African-American singles.

But there's always the possibility of splitting these interest groups into even smaller, and more elite, clusters. That's the premise of Black Is the New Green: Marketing to Affluent African Americans (Palgrave Macmillan, $35) by Uptown Media Group CEO Leonard E. Burnett Jr. and marketing consultant Andrea Hoffman.

There are three distinct segments of the African-American audience, say the authors, distinguished by age, education, income, and cultural tastes. "Affluent African Americans," or AAAs as they call their target group, are too frequently confused with an urban hip-hop crowd for whom ads featuring young black pop stars or athletes are best suited. "One-dimensional references," they assert, "have overshadowed the very real 'silent majority' that is this affluent group," which tends to be older and to have more sophisticated tastes. The authors estimate the buying power of this elite at $87.3 billion and rising.

So how should outfits with something to offer to upmarket African-Americans seek them out? A key way, say the authors, is via events marketing: Partnering with "a Black-oriented, member-based or philanthropic organization," such as the professional women's organization The Links, Incorporated or the professional men's group 100 Black Men of America. One company that has successfully organized such events, say the authors, is Aetna, whose foundation has co-sponsored various health initiatives with 100 Black Men of Atlanta. These have included efforts to improve awareness of childhood obesity and diabetes.

But print publishers will be happy to hear that the authors don't understate the importance of print advertising. "Put your ads where your audience is," they say. "The only publications expressly for the AAA audience are Black Enterprise, NV, Essence, and Uptown magazines." That's just a teeny bit self-serving: Burnett is Uptown's publisher.