2014 is proving to be yet another blockbuster year for theatrical releases catered towards African American audiences. As we approach the mid-quarter mark of 2014, two such movies have dominated box office ticket sales! Ride Along starring comedian Kevin Hart and rapper Ice Cube to date have grossed close to $117M over the last 5 weeks. The release is closely followed by another Rainforest Production About Last Night which debuted at the #2 mark grossing $25M its first week out.
In 2013, the movie industry released over 10 black movies including Oscar contender 12 Years A Slave, the controversial independent film Fruitvale Station; Nelson Mandela’s biopic The Long Walk To Freedom; and Lee Daniels' The Butler which raked in over $127M and counting worldwide. Although there are many factors contributing to the success of these African American films, including great talent and story lines, catering to an African American consumer-driven audience continues to prove beneficial.
Marketing strategies that target African American consumers' outreach surely aided to the success of Ride Along which according to Box Office Mojo took in over $41M its first week out. Although comedian Kevin Hart was afforded opportunities to sit on both Letterman and Fallon’s sofas, co-star Ice Cube's appearances on Arsenio Hall, Queen Latifah and Wendy Williams, which have heavy African American demographics, aided to its word-of-mouth reach. Co-stars Hart and Ice Cube also conducted call-ins and made appearances on popular urban radio shows including urban syndicated shows.
Marketing efforts also embraced overlooked secondary and tertiary markets while impacting black press nationally and regionally. Sadly, these outlets' marketing efforts are often overlooked by Hollywood. However, they are being embraced by African American production companies which are benefiting financially.
Although African Americans are considered the 2nd largest racial minority in the United States, and make up less than 14% of the population, according to the 2010 Census, its spending power, according to an article in Black Enterprise is projected to reach over 1.1 trillion by 2015. The article pulled some of its facts from a 2012 Nielsen Company Study entitled "African American Consumer: Still Vital, Still Growing," which highlights the unrepresented potential power of the African American community.
According to a report conducted by Target Market News, now is an opportune time for companies to develop strategies to reach African American consumers. According to the 105-page report, African Americans spent over 835 billion dollars with a substantial percentage of spending in entertainment.
Statistics and data continue to support the spending power of the African American dollar. Yet, advertisers and marketers continue to overlook this segmented audience by conforming to cookie-cutter strategies that overlook and devalue touch points directly connected to black communities. It’s time that communities of color form their own agencies and alliances and empower our own resources in not only telling our stories but taking ownership in developing, presenting and driving the message home to the mass market.
*Keith L. Forest is a media, marketing and event branding specialist with hands on experiencing connecting brands to niche urban, multicultural and faith-based communities. This article originally appeared on the website, Harlem World.