African Americans continue to have a supersized influence on the U.S. economy. By 2020 African Americans are projected to have a buying power of $1.5 trillion with a cumulative growth of 16% and a compound annual growth rate of 3% from 2015-2020, according to market research firm Packaged Facts in the report African-Americans: Demographic and Consumer Spending Trends, 10th Edition.
Skeptics about the cohort’s financial clout have to look no further than the recent success of the 2018 blockbuster Marvel superhero movie Black Panther, which has enjoyed record shattering returns and which to date has grossed more than $900 million globally. The film was a surefire success almost from its creative inception and official announcement four years ago as the news sent a simmering excitement through a black community starved for more minority representation in comic book movies.
While Disney’s Marvel Studios cheered the film’s success, so too did car maker Lexus. Movie goers got a look at Lexus’ new luxury LC coupe which is featured prominently in a major chase scene through the streets of South Korea. The scene marked two years of collaboration between Lexus and Marvel Studios.
Packaged Facts’ research revealed that product placement in movies and television shows resonates with African-American consumers. For example, black consumers are more likely to remember the brand name product characters use in a movie and try products they have never tried before that they have seen in a movie. Seeing a product used in a movie is also more likely to reassure black consumers that the product is a good one. Furthermore, when African-American consumers are online or in a store and see a brand name product they recognize from a movie, they are more likely to buy it than its competitor.
Car manufacturers featuring their vehicles in comic book movies isn’t anything new. However, as AutoNews.com states in an article, Lexus’ multicultural marketing agency, Walton Isaacson, openly admits that the idea to for collaboration and product placement in Black Panther represented an opportunity to link the car maker with a cultural event.
In addition to the product placement in film, Lexus leading up to the Black Panther release commissioned an original graphic novel, Black Panther: Soul of a Machine, featuring the LC 500 and a Lexus takumimaster craftsman as heroes. And don’t forget the Black Panther-themed Super Bowl ad for Lexus.
In the end it proved to be a shrewd strategy for Lexus. AutoNews.com reveals that there was “an explosion” of ad impressions across TV, social media, and in theater due to the film and the product tie-in. Further, in the week following Black Panther’s domestic premiere on February 16, online searches for Lexus at shopping site Autotrader were up 15% from the previous week. Likewise, Autotrader revealed that online traffic for the LC 500 specifically was up 10%.
It’s impossible to say how many of these searches were performed by African Americans, However, based on Packaged Facts’ previously referenced research on the impact of product placement on African Americans combined with the fact that Lexus is already popular with minority consumers, it’s fair to deduce at least a portion of the searches were by black shoppers.
Packaged Facts’ data also revealed that African Americans are among the biggest car buyers in America. Between 2012 and 2015 spending by African-American consumers on new cars and trucks increased from $13 billion to $20 billion. Further, the 51% increase in spending by black households on new automotive vehicles significantly outpaced the 27% increase registered by other households. But it’s not just new cars that get lots of love. Spending by African-Americans on used cars and trucks grew more than twice as fast as comparable expenditures by other consumers.