Is race still a valid marketing and selection differentiator?

It is well know that the subject of race is highly emotional issue in our country!

But what about when it comes to marketing?

Is race still a valid marketing and selection differentiator?

I don’t know what the answer is but I would like to find out your opinion.

Please let us know what you think in the comments below. You can remain anonymous if you like but we would value your opinion. (Use Private as your name and as your email address to remain anonymous).

When I first started the Interactive Direct Business Database we did not have a race indicator as we thought it was impolite.

However due to popular demand we added a RACE indicator to our database.

Are we dreaming if we say that race should not be a factor in marketing or are we ignoring a marketing reality?

Here is a summary of our database by race & gender:

The Interactive Direct Business Database
Number of People

  Total Asian Executives Black Executives Coloured Executives White Executives
  Female Male Female Male  Female Male Female Male  Female Male
Total 90,065 121,032 7,914 10,546 16,637 20,263 1,821 1,646 63,693 88,577
Province 3,489 4,720 126 178 894 985 69 72 2,400 3,485
East Cape
Free State 1,341 2,001 12 24 213 385 9 13 1,107 1,579
Gauteng 55,625 72,092 4,736 6,041 12,260 14,243 533 506 38,096 51,302
KwaZ Natal 7,873 11,948 2,034 3,019 1,281 1,615 35 47 4,523 7,267
Limpopo 441 995 7 25 173 409 3 4 258 557
Mpumalanga 1,358 2,580 35 112 288 573 10 4 1,025 1,891
North Cape 309 674 9 9 52 103 5 17 243 545
North West 866 1 ,562 17 38 199 357 8 7 642 1 ,142
West Cape 18,637 24,171 933 1,086 1,223 1,460 1,147 974 15,334 20,651
Z Outside RSA 126 289 5 14 54 115 2 2 65 158

15 Comments for this entry

Dave Lucas
July 26th, 2012 on 12:37 pm

Race shouldn’t be a factor but is in some cases. Depends what you are selling.

Janine Starkey
July 26th, 2012 on 12:59 pm

No, not in my opinion – I do not believe in today’s day and age that race should be a factor!

July 26th, 2012 on 1:06 pm

I think it is valid. Given cultural differences and belief differences when it comes to analysis it is possible that you can uncover insights around the different groups. Although it depends on what you are surveying.

Judith Taylor
July 26th, 2012 on 1:20 pm

I think that financial status and sex are far more valuable. Race keeps us stuck

    Thandi Khumalo
    July 27th, 2012 on 3:49 pm

    Of course race is an important factor, one of many important factors, but only depending on what you are marketing. Today’s Government is as obsessed with blackness as the apartheid government was with whiteness. If your brief is transformation and you are headhunting to fill a top government position you will exclude the whites.

July 26th, 2012 on 1:23 pm

Yes, race is relevant in marketing.
How people interpret the racial indicator is their issue, but from a PRODUCT point of view, you need to know who you are targeting. The different racial groups STILL: live in different suburbs, read different printed media, watch different TV programs, etc. If you do not know your target market, how will you know where to advertise ?!
You could advertise EVERYWHERE, but does everyone have these kind of budgets ?

Margie H
July 26th, 2012 on 1:24 pm

Race is vital as an indicator. Businesses have to have BEE scores so the race issue is raised by the government as selection criteria for B to B transactions.
When it comes to marketing the sector of the business is important in terms of the race of the executive: professional consultancies need to show confidence and trust – in a country where corruption is so prevalent from the (black) state president down, perceptions are most important and generalisations are prevalent.
Yes, marketing of the business needs race as a selection indicator.

July 26th, 2012 on 2:35 pm

My opinion is its not about race. Its about culture and demographics and target markets & size. So yes one would target anticipated markets via research. IN SA we are “colorful”, hence the rainbow nation but markets have common areas and specific areas. There are the poor, the middle class and the well to do. So affordability also plays a role, but with large areas of the population living in “townships”, you decide where you are selling or what to sell to who can afford whatever.

As mentioned just an opinion. Might be right might be wrong.

Ann Druce
July 26th, 2012 on 4:42 pm

I think race can a relevant criterion when targeting consumers of certain products – ethnic hair care being a prime example. However, I can’t see what difference gender or race makes when you are targeting someone in their professional capacity.

July 26th, 2012 on 9:20 pm

Yes its relevant because until we have a shared history and background we come from very different paradigms, parental influence and experiences when making decisions.

i believe this will change over time with exposure, education and integration.

Imtiyaz Delair
July 27th, 2012 on 8:55 am

Race is relevant as any other field enquiry. Especially with BEE palying a big role in company scoring. This opinion is based on industry experience & new venture where race is a key field in the project at hand.

Dave East
July 27th, 2012 on 9:32 am

Yes, even though the gaps are closing, race is still a differentiator. This is not racist, it is cultural. Different races enjoy different music. Different races enjoy different foods. And so on. So when it comes to marketing, one needs to know who one’s market really is.

Tony Sham
July 27th, 2012 on 9:40 am

From a purely marketing perspective there are some products & services which have greater appeal to Blacks vs. Whites or vice-versa and a savvy marketer needs to take into account whatever factors affect their marketing strategy.

It’s not that we wish to discriminate against people based on the colour of their skin but race is a reality in marketing.

Mark Backhouse
July 27th, 2012 on 2:20 pm

In the real world race is an issue. There are two distinct angles to approach this – emotionally or rationally. White suburban males will never be my target for premium brands. They economize and budget long term and buy from Woolies and are in debt to the hilt. Black middle aged men are now earning major monies and are the last remaining folk still spending money. You don’t profile by race to your peril. Like I think you database is only worth 20% of what you thinks it’s worth because you can keep every single white contact out for me thanks.

Lynelle Smith
July 27th, 2012 on 3:18 pm

There are certain services and products which are more geared towards one racial group rather than another, and for purposes of selecting well-defined target markets to optimise marketing drives, differentiating on race is still very relevant. In cases where such differentiations are not required, the race differentiator can be ommitted. Race as a selection criteria is still very valid.