Note from BW of Brazil: It’s a segment of the market that has existed for a number of years and with a continuous rise in ethnic identity, it’s also something that the market at large had better begin to pay more attention to. I am speaking here of what is being called “Afroconsumo”, which refers to a consumer market in which Afro-Brazilians purchase and identify themselves with products that represent their culture. It is the flip side of another rising phenomenon: Afro-entrepreneurialism. Afro-Brazilians make up a huge portion of Brazil’s population (53% considering the combined figures of blacks and browns) and this group has been increasingly demanding representation in various genres of Brazilian life where they have long been excluded or vastly under-represented. We saw an example of this when recent studies revealed that only 12.5% of commercials featured Afro-Brazilians as protagonists, with black women making up only 1% of lead roles in TV commercials (1). Tomorrow, the 15th edition of the Feira Preta expo will take place in São Paulo and thousands of these consumers will be out in force seeking items that represent their style and culture. The question is, how long will Brazil continue to act as if this population doesn’t exist?
Afroconsumo: Black Brazilian population moves around R$800 billion per year
By Fernando Montenegro
São Paulo, because it is a multicultural and globalized city, despite obvious social inequalities, provides its inhabitants with the possibility of diversified and qualitative access, inherent to the type of social construction of the locality. Thus, this influential environment, followed by the process of social ascension, increased purchasing power, directed public policies and affirmative actions favorable to social minorities, provoked a strong investment in intellectual capital, which had as one of its consequences the perceptible change in behavior of a significant portion of the população negra (black population) in various fields of consumption. This democratization, originated from the empowerment of a larger portion of Afro-Brazilians, started a process of construction of a new consumer profile.
At ETNUS consultancy, we understand Afroconsumo as a counterculture movement, which considers the direct or indirect influence of ethnic-racial characteristics on consumption experiences, consciously or unconsciously, playing a leading role in the aesthetics and racial and cultural characteristics intrinsic to afrodescendentes (African descendants). This disruption arises as an expression of the demands of subjects still invisible in the eyes of the market in its totality (communication, industrial production, etc.), which require their individualities and specificities to be considered and respected. This unity of people by identity and necessity makes possible the emergence of a new niche of consumption, placing Afro-Brazilians at the center of studies.
BRAZIL OF THE FUTURE: USA AND NIGERIA, MODELS OF A MATURE AFROCONSUMO
Similar to the contemporary Brazilian context, in the United States, during the period of institutionalized racial segregation, almost for the sake of survival, an alternative consumer society was created to contemplate this pulsating search for representation. Fashion, cinema, music, and education were some of the most striking segments in the formation of this new American consumer production, beginning in the late 1960s. Today, African-Americans, assisted by social struggles, affirmative policies and economic empowerment, despite making up only 12% of the US population, act with relevant representative force in the American consumer society. According to a study conducted by the Nielsen Company, it is estimated that African-Americans currently consume approximately $1.1 trillion per year and by 2017 this figure will reach $1.3 trillion.
A similar move is taking place in Nigeria, where the main example is the world’s second largest film industry, Nollywood, which emerged from a lack of representativeness of Nigerians, who consumed only white films with no ethnic-racial relationship. In addition, a financial crisis in the 1980s leveraged the eyes on local industry, inducing a production process representative of the population of that African country. Currently, this targeted consumption is responsible for revenue of 800 million dollars a year.
Both movements of afroconsumo previously mentioned have in common the emergence of a question of social or identity necessity – aesthetic recognition – that entails a change of consumption behavior, coming from the advances of the social struggles, intellectual and economic empowerment, culminating in the emergence of new targeted markets, produced or not by the black community. Another extremely interesting mark is the growth of this niche market, which over the years has consolidated significantly. In the United States, for example, there is a projected increase of $2 billion over the period 2015-2017.
In Brazil, TBWA made one of the first estimates of the annual income of the black Brazilian middle class, in 1998, reaching a value of R$46 billion (2) per year. Also, important information about the consumption behavior of these people appeared: 36% of the interviewees wanted special soaps, 31%, clothes with African motifs, while 27% complained that there stronger ethnic flavor didn’t exist on the market. At that time, the marketing manager of the first national company to launch an exclusive line for blacks, Nazca Cosméticos, Veronica Wolff, in an interview with Revista Época, credited to this public the responsibility for 13% of all the revenue of the corporation.
In another survey, research done by Data Popular shows that in 2007 the annual income of this specific economic class was around R$337 billion, rising to R$554 billion in 2010, with a growth of 38%. Currently, the latest figures point to a movement close to R$800 billion per year (about US$237 billion).
Therefore, once we accept the general change in the behavior of the mass consumer, who has left the passivity and started to seek belonging, and putting as a coadjutant the differences of classes, we can interpret afroconsumo under the perspective of the concept of “cauda longa” (long tail), as well emphasized by Chris Anderson in his book A Cauda Longa (The Long Tail) (2006), which states that custom niches/demands are characteristics of this new moment of consumption.
To paraphrase American teacher Sonya Grier, a specialist in race and ethnicity in the market “targeted marketing is the foundation of an effective marketing strategy and is driven by the recognition that an “undifferentiated” approach no longer works among diversified and sophisticated consumers.” This new consumer yearns for a construction of a relationship.
Source: Mundo Negro
- No doubt, a result of the continued belief that white women won’t buy a product if the girl in the ad is black.
- In 1998, the US dollar was about $1.20 in Brazilian reais , which means 46 billion reais would have been worth about 38 billion dollars.