Marketing to people of color is about much more than just sponsoring events and placing brand awareness ads in our media. African-Americans buy far more new vehicles than the automakers’ market research firms give us credit for. And that is the first thing that needs fixing.
According to statistics compiled by R.L. Polk and Company, new vehicle purchases by people of color represent 22 percent of annual sales. The current restructuring presents the perfect opportunity to balance marketing budgets to reflect this reality. Yes, you need an advertising agency to help you do that – ideally an agency whose staff and leadership reflect your customer base.
The major agencies, in control of the research dollars, have no interest in knowing what we really spend on new vehicles and that is why they continually underestimate us while pursuing an antiquated marketing strategy. Given that few of the major agencies even hire African-Americans and/or Latinos, it becomes easy to understand how this oversight perpetuates. Their philosophies are primarily based on the circumstances that existed in the 1950s, when marketing was centered on the White male.
Anyone not fitting into this category is typically ignored.
If you want to change the American multicultural consumer’s perceptions of domestic vehicles, you must first change your perception of the American
We are diverse people who buy every type of vehicle, including hybrids,
trucks, SUVs, luxury vehicles and sports cars. So why then do they only market one vehicle to us at a time? Why does one division of a company have an African-American campaign but another says we are not targeting
them right now? Why are we perpetually missing in action when it comes to marketing hybrids?
Marketers believe we will not pay the high price for one, because they haven’t done the research to determine that African-Americans are environmentally conscious. When Detroit leaves a vacuum like this, offshore competitors jump in to take advantage of the market opportunity. Ford, Toyota and Lexus target their hybrid vehicles to African- Americans and Hispanics.
Automakers, including the Detroit Three, have ignored our buying power for far too long. Now that they are restructuring, a revolution must take place in how they market to us – the second largest car market in the United States.
On the bright side, there is one leader in place who can make the aggressive changes needed to bring true parity to marketing in the auto industry: Bob Lutz. Like Henry Ford, Lutz is a man who recognizes the value of inclusiveness. In 1993, while leading Chrysler, Lutz set the industry’s first diversity oriented goal to do 5 percent of contracting with minority companies.
Now responsible for marketing at GM, Lutz recently put together a marketing team that includes GM’s African- American design chief Ed Welburn. Welburn understands how to make GM cars and trucks more appealing. He and Lutz recognize more needs to be done to reach all consumers.
And while this bodes well for General Motors, Chrysler and Ford have yet to demonstrate anything similar along those lines. However, if indeed they want to expand their share of the market, they must do more than merely pay lip service to the multicultural market.
And that would be change we could believe in.
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