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Ignoring the potential of minorities in mobile?

By Lauren DeLisa Coleman

Far too many marketers have made a grave error in stating that they are simply too inundated with meeting the challenges of using the new medium of mobile to apply any deeper racial demographic behavior to the platform.

But such an approach can easily lead to one becoming the Levi’s or Blockbuster Video of his era precisely because of this demographic’s its sheer strength and its influencer status.

The days of the “I’ll-get-around-to it-later-they’ll-buy-it-anyway” approach to this market segment are officially declared over precisely due to the building up of some powerful statistics.

If open, smart marketers can look like company superstars if they work to use the socio-economic elements and use them to their advantage. And it can be done quite easily using three steps:

Know the mobile playing field
It is surprising just how many people playing with mobile have little or no idea as to who and where the real consumers are. Knowledge is power, as they say, so stock up.

Nielsen recently released figures which demonstrate that smartphone penetration is highest among mobile users who are part of ethnic and racial minorities in the U.S. population and the drive to buy more is only increasing.

But only 27 percent of white mobile users actually reported owning a smartphone, yet this seems to the Holy Grail of mobile. Why?

It is backwards, and it is no wonder that mobile marketing has not moved at a faster pace. The industry is simply creating too large a conversation with the wrong market segment.

In addition, these statistics become even more compelling when one adds them to the Target Market News Report on the buying power of Black America since it documents that African-Americans spent a breathtaking $9.4 billion dollars in 2009 on mobile phones and service – an increase of 30 percent from the prior year.

Combine this with the fact that Pew Research shows that markets of color out-index in terms of mobile phone feature usage and texting and one has compelling confluence of analytical business ammunition.

Understand how the statistics intertwine with social media use and social change
For example, the African-American market is growing in terms of sheer population, while the Caucasian market is shrinking (source: U.S. Census Bureau).

The African-American population skews younger than that of the Caucasian market (source: Nielsen), is growing in terms of online usage while that of the mainstream begins to stagnate (source: eMarketer).

The fact that blacks access social media more frequently than the mainstream and even out-index in population percentage usage on Twitter (source: Arbitron) provides many reasons and methods to leverage the mobile message.

It is obviously all about media-meshing. He who thinks in a mobile silo is destined to be doomed or, at most, fired.

The question that should always be asked is how does mobile fit into our overall digital strategy given what we know about the behavior of our target and its demographic representation.

Make a move and at least execute some kind of test
When it comes to mobile, one of the biggest mistakes brands seem to make today is using a broad, one-size-fits-all approach for a narrowcast medium. Let us not take the easy way out.

For instance, a brand could have one mobile destination but use additional, varied organic routes to drive consumers to either opt-in, interact with that 2D bar code and download and use the application.

This may take a bit more thought and creativity, but is that not why chief marketing officers get paid the big bucks anyway?

Plus, the return on such an investment is guaranteed, if executed properly, given the fact that one is zeroing in on the biggest mobile user. Metric usage can support the test and provide untold value.

WE LIVE IN a fragmented marketplace. Therefore, it is mandatory that we implement different tools relevant to the various fragments.

This is about integrating mobile with trusted digital brand ambassadors and events. It is about understanding and being sensitive to perspective to grow revenue. It is a new frontier and much like when the Wild, Wild West was being developed, one used a guide.

It is the same thing today, and that does not necessarily mean relying on the agencies of old when dealing with ethnicity and culture.

We have to ask ourselves: does my company have the cultural intelligence, edgy approach and access it should regarding this market?

If the answer is not a resounding yes, then there is a probably money still being left on the table just waiting for the right company in each industry that gets it.

Lauren DeLisa Coleman is a New York-based socio-political digitalist and president of Punch Media Group. Reach her at [email protected].