Porter Novelli

Mega entertainer and cultural icon Beyoncé Knowles Carter was onto something when she released the 2011 female empowerment anthem “Run the World.” The single – performed for the likes of Oprah during her finale show – heralded the gains of women from graduating college to building a nation.

When she proclaims “we’re smart enough to make these millions, strong enough to bear the children and then get back to business,” the message seems to hit a little close to home in her role as both a woman and an African-American. In fact, if you look beyond the glitz and glamour of her profession, you’ll find that Mrs. Carter also plays a role that is familiar for many African-American women: a working mother.

In our second We are Black History blog posting, we spoke to the power of black women in the African-American community. Indeed, Nielsen’s third report on African-American consumers finds that women control 43 percent of the annual spending power for the black population and black women are more than three times as likely to be the head of their household in comparison to the general population. In addition to running the household and making the purchasing decisions, here’s what else Black women are running in 2014.

  •  Thursday night television and reality TV. While no group watches more television than African-Americans, black women, especially those 18-49, tend to be heavier viewers than their male counterparts[i]. ABC’s Scandal and VH1’s Love & Hip Hop Atlanta Season 2 dominated the televisions of African-Americans, attracting 2.1 million viewers (African-Americans 18-49) in the first half of 2013. This reflects black viewers’ preference for watching programs that include diverse casts and characters that represent black culture although the shows may not necessarily be representative of the everyday black experience.
  • Twitter. A 2013 study by the Pew Research Center uncovered that more than a quarter of all black Internet users are on Twitter, affectionately coined as “Black Twitter.” The Washington Post’s Soraya Nadia McDonald described the “Black Twitter” phenomena as a virtual community ready to hashtag out a response to culture issues. Not only are African-American women live tweeting about Olivia Pope and Fitz, they are also serving as activists and addressing cultural transgressions from former public relations executive Justin Sacco (#HasJustineLandedYet) to former Food Network personality Paula Deen (#PaulasBestDishes).
  • The hair aisle. Spike Lee set the stage with his infamous good and bad hair scene in 1988’s School Daze, so much so that in 2009 comedian Chris Rock released the documentary Good Hair. His film highlighted what many of us have known for years: hair care is a serious business for African-American women. Blacks consistently place a higher emphasis on grooming and beauty categories and regardless of the income level, blacks purchase ethnic hair and beauty aids nine times more than others[ii].
  • Pop culture. 73 percent of whites and 67 percent of Hispanics believe that blacks are a driving force on our popular culture[iii]. And VH1, which has 59 percent African-American viewership[iv], seems to agree. The American cable television network recently debuted “The Tanning of America,” a four-part documentary series that examines hip-hop as a pop cultural movement whose profound influence eventually paved the way for the election of Barack Obama.

African-American women are running more than just their households and purchasing decisions.

For information on this influencer group and how you can develop relevant messaging, strategies, and tactics, please contact the PN Multicultural Practice.


[i] Source: Nielsen 12/31/2012 to 6/30/13, Total Hours Spent Viewing includes Live TV viewing, DVR Playback, DVD Playback and Video Game Consoles

[ii] Source: Nielsen Homescan, total U.S. 52 weeks ending 12/29/2012, UPC-coded

[iii] Source: Burrell 40, 2011.

[iv] Source: Nielsen 12/31/2012-6/30/2013, Total Day, L+7 Projections, Average number of viewers in thousands