The Opportunity for Minority Firms: Go Mobile

African-Americans and Hispanics Over Index; Where Are You?

By Published on .

Doug Melville
Doug Melville
If the motto of your niche firm is to go where the people are, the first place African-American and Hispanic firms should be going: mobile devices.

Nielsen recently did a study that analyzed 60,000 cellphone bills over the course of a year and tracked mobile usage for voice and text. According to Nielsen:

African-Americans use the most voice minutes -- on average more than 1,300 a month. Hispanics are the next most talkative group, chatting an average of 826 minutes a month. Even Asians/Pacific Islanders, with 692 average monthly minutes, talk more than Whites, who use roughly 647 voice minutes a month. . . . African-Americans and Hispanics also text the most. Hispanics send and receive around 767 SMS messages a month while African-Americans send and receive around 780 – significantly more than Asians/Pacific Islanders (384 texts a month) and Whites (566 texts a month).

If you look at this study from a percentage basis, African-American and Hispanic consumers are texting on average 100% more than Asians, and 40% more than the general market. When it comes to voice, the African-American audience is doubling that of the general market.

So what does it all mean? Mobile is the breakout platform African-American and Hispanic agencies need to master, own, and lead with. The mobile device is digital, its in a growth stage, and audiences are living and breathing on it -- all the things you could ask for in an ethnic niche platform.

I wrote an Ad Age post a few months ago on how the digital platforms have become the playground for tech companies, a trend that could be the turning point for African-American agencies. A trend upward if African-American firms lead that innovation, or a trend downward if those firms choose to take a back seat to this revolution.

Today, technology has begun to force marketers and advertisers into becoming more science driven than art driven, more data driven than gut driven. Quite simply, ethnic agencies need to be at the forefront of these changes. They are nimble, they know their audience, and they can incubate innovation -- if they choose to. On the other side of this are the big digital agencies. I wonder how many of the top digital agencies are incubating African-American and Hispanic think tanks? These firms have the technology and R&D infrastructure, but today's mobile data is typically focused on psychographics, regions, age and patterns rather than ethnicity. Are these firms truly looking to maximize the ethnic audience which has become more attached to their mobile devices?

It is somewhat underwhelming how many ethnic-based mobile programming solutions are in the market. This is not to say they aren't out there, but if so, they are getting far less "shine" in regards to case studies, press and recognition. And if so, who are they?

In a time where the economy is compromising traditional niche/ethnic budgets, the opportunity to define the practices that will be part of the DNA of mobile marketing and ethnic marketing is happening right now. Our consumers deserve it, and they are probably looking at their phone right now wondering when it will arrive.

Douglas L. Melville is currently the president of Red Carpet Runway and a strategic adviser for various entertainment brands and personalities.
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