According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2015, there were 46.3 million African Americans living in the United States. While this is only about 14 percent of the United States population, African Americans are responsible for $1.2 trillion in purchases annually. Although we're in the middle of Black History Month, it's not too late for brands to celebrate African-American history, while also attracting a new group of African-American consumers. While Black History Month is a great place to start, your multicultural marketing strategy should not end with this month and should consist of a year-round approach. Here are a few affordable, quick, and easy ways your marketing department can celebrate African-American culture, while not alienating this group.

1. Show the face behind the logo.

This is something I always tell my team whenever we conduct our social media campaigns. Consumers like to see the face behind the logo. Like other markets, African Americans prefer to see what's behind the product. As marketers, therefore, we need to be authentic when attempting to connect with this market. The best way to do this is by producing videos, designing images, and gathering quotes from other African-American employees or clients. To African Americans, representation is everything. Here is a cost-effective approach done by the WNBA.

2. Support the community.

According to Nielsen, "38 percent of African Americans between the ages of 18 and 34, and 41 percent of those aged 35 or older, expect their favorite brands to support social causes." This is 4 percent and 15 percent higher than the total population average, respectively. By targeting the experiences of African-American communities, brands can establish trust and loyalty among this group. A good way of doing this is through establishing community partnerships, like Nike's Black History Month collection, which uses the "power of sport to fuel community action in creating positive change."

3. Celebrate differences while highlighting similarities.

At the end of the day, African-Americans are Americans. Honor what makes this culture unique, but don't forget that they contribute to the overall American culture. Like other groups, they value family, they are fiercely loyal to their community, and they want the best for everybody. Creating a campaign focusing on these attributes will speak to the core of African Americans, and will also attract other groups as well. By showing African Americans that they belong to your brand, they will feel more compelled to show their loyalty. An example of this is McDonald's 365Black campaign.

4. Repurpose content.

In order to keep this celebration going year-round, you can recycle your content, and take a different approach when sharing. Almost 60 percent of marketers reuse content, according to LookBookHQ. An example of this is Spotify's "Black History is Happening Now" campaign.

5. Use social media to reach this market in addition to traditional marketing avenues.

As a social media manager, I'm a little biased, but African-American consumers are using social media to speak directly to brands. However, if brands are not ready for this level of contact, they will have a lot to lose. The young African-American consumer is extremely sensitive about the role of brands. They have great awareness of their culture and are not afraid to use social media to bring attention to anybody attacking their community or appropriating it. Social media is the tool that has given a marginalized group its voice.

According to Nielsen, "Throughout 2017, popular brands witnessed the power of Black Twitter and the brand impact of socially conscious Black consumers. Through social media, Black consumers have brokered a seat at the table. There's a demand that brands and marketers speak to them in ways that resonate, culturally and experientially -- if these brands want their business." Also, "African Americans are more likely, than non-Hispanic white peers, to interact with brands on social media, or to use social networks to support companies and brands (44 percent more likely)." As the power of social media merges with the educated and tech-savvy African-American consumers, there's never been a more crucial time for companies to use social media to create connections with this group. This would help to foster relationships, as well as protecting the company's bottom line.

Other things to keep in mind

1. African Americans are brand-loyal.
Companies should conduct more research on African-American spending and keep an eye out for small shifts in spending. The more a company learns about its consumers, the more loyal these consumers become. African-American brand loyalty, in particular, is contingent upon a brand's social responsibility, cultural sensitivity, and ingenuity.

2. African Americans are cultural influencers.
What African Americans buy are often statements of themselves--in particular, their culture, tradition, and lifestyle. This is a great opportunity for companies yet to delve into this market, because once they do, they will build brand loyalty which could expand to future generations. Cheryl Grace, Senior Vice President of U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement at Nielsen, notes that their "research shows that Black consumer choices have a 'cool factor.' This has created a halo effect, influencing not just consumers of color, but the mainstream as well."

3. If you're not marketing to this base, this could impact your brand's bottom line.
"When it comes to African-American consumer spend, there are millions, sometimes billions of dollars in revenue at stake," said Andrew McCaskill, Senior Vice President of Global Communications and Multicultural Marketing at Nielsen. You must use the necessary tools to reach this market. There's a tremendous amount of spending power contained in this base, and if targeted improperly, it could hurt your numbers. An example of this is Shea Moisture.   

Over time, as African Americans see your brand consistently celebrating their culture, using data to gain insight into their socio-political sensibility, including them in overall marketing campaigns, getting involved in the community, and exhibiting cultural empathy, your company will gain their trust, and eventually, their loyalty.