Is urban radio a key to the American consumer's wallet?

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on February 18, 2005

Urban radio listeners are among the real 'big spenders' in many significant retail categories, including automotive, sports apparel, wine, and wireless technologies, according to a study by the US-based shopping, media and lifestyle pattern analysts Scarborough Research.

For the purposes of the study, urban radio listeners were defined as consumers aged 18 or over, who regularly listen to contemporary inspirational, gospel, rhythmic contemporary hit radio, urban contemporary, or urban oldies.

Target categories
When it comes to the automotive category, one of the top advertising categories for radio, Urban radio listeners were found to be 52% more likely than other adults to plan to purchase a luxury vehicle during the coming year. This accounts for more than one-quarter (27%) of intended luxury vehicle purchases in the US.

Urban radio listeners also demonstrated purchasing power when it comes to sports apparel. They account for more than one-third (35%) of consumers who spend US$500 or more on athletic clothing each year. In the sports league and team apparel category, they were also more than twice as likely than other consumers to have purchased NBA apparel and 37% more likely to have purchased NFL apparel in the past year. Additionally, those who purchased athletic shoes during the past year spent an average of US$142 on them, compared with the national average of US$123.

Living it up
Urban radio listeners also tended to be high-end spenders for wine and wireless services, being 43% more likely than the national average to "usually" spend US$20 or more on a bottle of wine. It also seems that they like to talk on the phone; their average monthly wireless phone bill is 10% greater than the national average (US$64 monthly for urban radio listeners compared to the national average of US$58).

"Local and national advertisers alike can tap into this lucrative consumer group by appealing to their interest in luxury goods. Feelings of self-worth and personal success are strong motivators in the purchases of high-end luxury items," noted Mario Christino, corporate director of sales & marketing for Radio One Inc.

Format distinctions
But even more spending distinctions were found when comparing the different formats that make up Urban Radio. For example, 10% of Rhythmic Contemporary Hit radio listeners say they usually spend US$15 or more on a bottle of wine, versus just four percent of Contemporary Inspirational Listeners. While 15% of Gospel Listeners spent more than US$100 on athletic shoes during the past year, this increases to 22% for Urban Oldies listeners. On the other hand, Gospel Listeners tend to be the biggest spenders among Urban radio listeners when it comes to men's business clothing, with those making a purchase in the past year spending an average of US$270. Contemporary Inspirational Listeners, in contrast, had an average expenditure in this category of only US$237.

"The nuances among listeners of various urban formats provide advertisers with an opportunity for very precise targeting," said Howard Goldberg, senior vice president of radio services for Scarborough Research. "It is crucial that marketers analyse format distinctions across retail categories. Examining luxury vs. value, name brand vs. generic, older vs. younger, and Los Angeles vs. Atlanta, for the various urban formats can demonstrate important differences."

Demographically, urban radio listeners tend to be young (more than twice as likely than other consumers to be aged 18-24), single (twice the national rate), and African American (almost four times as likely). Fully 42% of them have an annual household income of US$50,000 or more, making them 10% less likely than other consumers to be in this income bracket.

"Advertisers seeking to target the urban consumer must understand that this community has operated from the mindset of disproportionate spending and destination shopping for centuries. Urban buyers are also motivated to spend by factors other than just price, including but not limited to personal satisfaction, instant gratification for early adopters, reliability and quality," said Julian Davis, director of urban media services for Arbitron Inc. "Marketers who not only genuinely become involved with the community, but who also consider population density and other factors beyond income levels, will be successful in increasing brand loyalty and product sales among urban consumers."

The markets where the most US urban radio listeners can be found closely mirror those markets with the most Black/African-American radio listeners. New York tops the list, with nearly 4.3 million urban radio listeners. Rounding out the top 5 markets are Los Angeles (2.7 million), Chicago (1.7 million), Atlanta (1.2 million), and Philadelphia (1.1 million). Nationally, 18% of consumers tune in to urban radio.

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