Last April, Dasani®, a bottled water brand of The Coca-Cola Company, launched a special Mother’s Day program targeting African American women.  The campaign, whose spokesperson was Chilli from the Grammy award-winning R&B group TLC, delivered a message of health and hydration through print, radio and in-store advertising and invited moms to visit to win prizes, see the latest fashion trends, get beauty tips and receive coupons for products.  No surprise that Coca-Cola, with an established African American marketing division, considers African American moms a key target. “Among African American consumers, African American moms are the gatekeeper to the household,” said Yolanda White, assistant vice president, African American Marketing, Coca-Cola North America, in a recent Ad Age interview.  “We over-index in single-family households, and so reaching Mom is critical.”

As brand leaders and marketing executives, we have come to realize that not all moms are created equal.  And while our campaigns targeting new moms, working moms, moms of multiples, etc. are gaining traction with consumers, few brands are successfully connecting with African American moms. According to past M2W speaker Miriam Muley, CEO of the 85% Niche and author of The 85% Niche:  The Power of Women of All Colors—Latina, Black and Asian, nearly half—46 percent—of all mothers in this country are Latina, Black or Asian.  By 2020, 49 percent of all mothers in this country will be diverse and in states such as California, Texas, Washington D.C. and Hawaii, mothers of color™ are already the dominant sector.  “Given this demographic importance, the corollary question is, do marketers allocate roughly half of their marketing to mothers budgets to mothers of color?  If not, why not?”

Why not, indeed?  The African American Mom represents a huge opportunity for today’s marketers.  “This segment would definitely make a difference to a brand’s bottom line,” says 2009 M2W-HC speaker Pepper Miller, founder of the Hunter-Miller Group and author of What’s Black About It? Insights to Increase Your Share of a Changing African-American Market.  “Black moms are the new low hanging fruit.”  So where do you begin?  Here’s what some of today’s top brands have been doing to successfully connect with this lucrative consumer group:

Do Your Research

Just like Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble sees multicultural marketing as a business opportunity and not just a social cause.  “They invest in research and learn everything they can about Black moms,” says Miller.  “In addition to using this research for product development, they have also been able to create relevant communications.”  Both Miller and Muley site P&G’s Tide brand as one that resonates well with African American moms—specifically a commercial that showed an African American Dad with a baby sleeping on his stomach.  “Black moms went crazy for this spot because it showed Dad in a caretaking position—something that means a lot to the African American community,” says Miller.  And that’s not the brands only homerun hit with today’s Black moms.  Adds Muley, “Tide recognizes the importance of the family dynamic by using images of engaged, strong fathers in connecting with Hispanic and Black mothers.  Their commercials also show the role of children in helping with household chores, which is the norm in ethnic households.  The high production values of Tide commercials also make them aesthetically appealing to mothers of color as a product they would want to use in their homes and for their families.”

Focus on the Parent-Child Dynamic

Experts agree that the parent-child dynamic is unique among African American mothers.  “Black moms tend to raise their children to be more independent compared to more mainstream moms,” says Miller.  “They tend to delegate more responsibility to their children—often at a very young age.”  This is especially true for children growing up in single-parent households—currently 70 percent of Black babies are born to single mothers.  But, being a single parent is not the only reason Black moms tend to emphasize independence with their children.  “Encouraging independence at an earlier age is also tied to the belief that children of color need to be prepared for the harsh realties of the world,” says Muley.  “Black and Latino mothers, in particular, feel the perils for children of color are greater than other children.  Therefore, these mothers are vigilant about ensuring their children are ready to overcome challenges that will inevitably be presented—whether in school, in the neighborhood, or on the job.”

Be Aware of Badge Value

In Miller’s book, she explains that,  “African Americans have identity-shaping relationships with brands.  Particular upscale, top-end brands are visible symbols of success for communicating social and economic achievements.”  This demographic tends to rate “advertised brands” more highly than “performance”, but will drop a brand immediately if it fails to live up to its promise.  Black moms are proud of their accomplishments and are looking for brands that speak to their growth and progress.  “This is a huge opportunity for the automotive industry,” says Miller.  “If they would invest in this Mom—develop a relationship with her now and continue to move her on up, they would have a customer for life.”

Celebrate Who She’s Become

Black moms are resilient and strong and are usually very self-sufficient.  “They are survivors, but often feel advertisers portray them as being frazzled with their busy lives,” says Miller.  Although many are heading up single-parent households, they have an unwavering faith that life is good and take the job of parenting very serious—they would like to see that better reflected in the media.  “They want to be perceived as good moms,” says Miller.  “There is such a great opportunity for marketers to reach out to them and elevate their standards and celebrate their achievements.”

As top blogger, Christy Matte of states, “What’s most important to me in brand messaging is simple. I want to see faces of color used authentically. I want to see families of different races, including some that are interracial. I want to see a true cross-section of the population. I think Lane Bryant is also doing a nice job, not only by incorporating African American models, but by giving us jeans that fit curvy bodies. Their new “Right Fit” jeans take into account that some of us have small waists and bigger butts. Yeah, them!