Understanding Diverse Black Americans, and How to Connect with Them Through Audio

Black Americans share a common racialized experience in the U.S. But of today's 47 million Black Americans, each individual has a story, shaped by their geography, age, gender, and origin. The media landscape hasn't always reflected these diverse perspectives—except for audio. With its low barrier of entry and ability to reach the masses, audio lets people express their intentions, emotions, and unique stories in a nuanced and authentic way. Today, Black storytellers are weaving their stories across music and podcasts, allowing their communities— and by extension, brands—to be a part of their experiences.   

At SXM Media, we have our ear to the ground to create meaningful audio ad experiences for our listeners. We conducted a Pandora Soundboard study among 505 Black listeners and dug into their listening behaviors to understand how their listening experiences reflect their mindset and behavior. Here's what we found:

Black Americans are as diverse as ever

Press play on SiriusXM, Pandora, or SoundCloud's top stations and playlists, and you’ll come across the infectious beat of today's rap, the melodic sound of R&B, or the uplifting vibe of afrobeats and reggaeton. You may even find an eclectic blend of these and many other genres. The fresh, unique sounds you hear point to the diversity of the African diaspora (African descendants outside of Africa and around the world) whose influence continues to impact U.S. culture. 

Black Americans with ties to Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and other parts of the world celebrate the richness of their distinct cultures while sharing similar experiences to those with deep roots in the U.S. They've become more vocal about seeing their cultures represented in the media and are joining their voices to make a change.

As a marketer, you can benefit from celebrating this diversity—seeing as 42% of Black Americans prefer ads that speak to their culture and heritage, and 66% say brands can earn their loyalty and trust by featuring the full spectrum of the Black community. Here are two simple ways to reflect the diversity this segment seeks, without compromising the scale of your Black audience targeting strategy: play up the richness of their music in your ads, and support their favorite genres and artists within your campaigns.

Black and American identities are not mutually exclusive

Blackness is not always associated with the "all-American" experience. Yet, the widespread popularity of Hip-hop, R&B, and today's eclectic Black artists winning in the country, pop, and rock music space prove otherwise.  

Our survey found that Black identity remains strong among Black Americans, as 82% say their race and ethnicity are important in defining who they are. While the very definition is complex, 67% prefer "Black" to describe their collective identity, and a little over half prefer "African American."

Our listeners recognize that being Black and claiming one's nationality doesn't have to be mutually exclusive, with 61% of Black listeners also saying they prefer "American" to define their collective.  

"My family helped build this country, and I want that to be acknowledged" —Female 30-34.

Black Americans want brands to represent them in their ads—51% prefer ads featuring diverse voices, and 54% say that ads that feature Black Americans get their attention better than ads that don't. The best approach to reaching Black audiences? It’s two-fold: elevate their voices and stories in your general advertising messages and create dedicated campaigns that reflect their experiences. Doing one and not the other is no longer an effective way to reach them. 

Black Americans value what keeps them safe and grounded

We asked our Black listeners to rank what they value most in life. Family, health, respect, faith, and loyalty were the most common answers across every demographic, with some minor differences. These choices have one thing in common—they provide safety and support to Black Americans.  

The pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests made Black Americans more aware of their mortality. To combat racial injustice in the U.S. and around the world, the community called for everyone to join in the fight and assigned brands a leading role in moving society in a more positive direction. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent protests, 39%  of Black listeners said they stopped supporting brands that didn’t take a stand against racism. Today, 52% agree that companies have a responsibility to get involved with issues that matter to the Black community.  

As the fight for Black lives continues, Black Americans are focusing on supporting their families, strengthening their bond, and creating new narratives that safeguard their community's future. They are doing so by standing up against policies that would hurt Black families, being more flexible and action-oriented with their faith and spirituality, focusing on their mental and physical health, and creating outlets for Black men and women to be vulnerable and heal. The latter is very prevalent among young Black Americans who challenge stigmas, put their mental health above all else, and fight for justice while protecting their peace.

Podcasts have grown to be a safe space for meaningful, value-focused conversations. In our recent

study of Black podcast listeners, 70% said they listen to podcasts to hear unique perspectives not covered in other media, and 42% said they feel a sense of community by listening to people and perspectives like their own. If you’re a brand looking to connect with Black audiences, the podcast space allows you to do so in a meaningful way and drive positive results for your brand. Supporting Black podcasts is a way in, as 82% of Black listeners say they would consider a brand if they heard about it on a podcast hosted by a Black creator. 

Creating a more accurate, inclusive movement

As the Black American community grows more influential, they’re demanding more content that reflects their perspectives. From music that echoes Black Americans’ culture, to podcasts that amplify their values, digital audio offers a pathway to connect with Black consumers and participate in meaningful conversations. 

Acknowledging the full spectrum of the Black community, representing this segment more, and supporting issues they care about are just a few ways to build trust and loyalty with these listeners. And when brands support racial and social justice and take action, Black consumers take notice.

To learn more about how to engage with Black listeners in authentic ways, check out our latest

webinar on the Black Experience.