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Marketers told their ideas about Black, Urban Gen Y consumers need
By Karl Greenberg
Mediapost.com (April 6, 2010) Three ads in the most recent issue of Vibe Magazine
tell a story about marketing to urban African-American Millennials and
how those consumers define themselves. One is a print ad for Heineken
beer: a young African-American hipster relaxes with a Heineken, a
woman's leg draped across the picture in the background, and the text:
"Charisma. You can't buy it. You can't make it. And you sure can't fake
Another is for a new fashion collection by hip-hop impresario Russell
Simmons: Russell Simmons ArgyleCulture, on sale at Macy's. The third,
for Rocawear, is a pair of print ads showing toddlers in white-on-white
sets, suggesting a fashion and architectural studio. "My grandmother was
a science teacher; my mother is a genetic engineer. I am next," says one
The text for the Heineken ad could be a caution sign on the
hazard-strewn road to pitching young urban consumers. The later ads are
both tracks hinting at where urban African-American self-identity is
heading, and what it says about how they define themselves, and how a
lot of marketers still think they define themselves.
At last week's marketing series, "The New Black. The New Urban," which
took place at media mogul Damon Dash's DD172 center, the message was,
indeed, that marketers can't make it by faking it or by relying on
outdated notions about what African-American -- and more broadly, urban
Millennials -- see when they look in the mirror.
At the event, sponsored by Alloy Access, the multi-cultural and urban
division of Alloy Media and Marketing, Tru Pettigrew, president of Alloy
Access, said the firm has been approached by big brands over the past
year. He said they wondered why, despite their increasing media
commitments to urban markets, 12- to-29-year-old African-Americans and
urbanites were not buying.
"They were saying, 'What is happening with the African-American and
urban space that is causing our brand metrics to decline? What's
different about this generation? How do we speak to them?'," he said.
"They are asking why it seems their brands are not as entrenched in
their lives as they were 10 years ago."
Pettigrew and Andre Pinard, director of consumer insights at Alloy
Access, said the answer is in how marketers are defining the segment:
they are, he said, still taking an old-school approach, focusing on
athletes and entertainers, repurposing general market creative and
ignoring young urbanites' connectivity and influence, and the segment's
"conscious march to change the broad perspective of what it means to be
Pinard said Alloy Access partnered with Harris Interactive last year to
define the market, via a survey of over 2,000 people. He said the survey
suggested that connectivity and openness were two drivers of urban
identity. The firm had identified five others: expression, creativity,
discovery, versatility and authenticity.
"Connectivity opened a space where like-minded individuals can create a
movement, and Openness means acceptance of different cultures and
attitudes," said Pinard, who added that the firm adopted -- and
redefined -- the term "Urban Hustler."
"It means a drive, a work ethic, and striving to upward mobility. We
found that urban is a mindset; it's not about ethnicity, and it's
grounded in interests and aspirations. Urban consumers are go-getters,
connectors, and trendsetters," said Pinard.
"We believe that this new black, urban mindset is about harnessing
social capital. It's the notion that social currency relates to the size
of your network." He said the symbolic battle between 50 Cent and Kanye
West shows how "black and male" has changed. "The person who walked away
as victor was Kanye, not 50 Cent, as one might have expected."
They suggest marketers establish a "trialogue" relationship with
consumers. "Don't chase the clouds -- know what you are to this audience
and stay true to that. Find out what is shared between your consumer and
your brand and leverage that. Don't try to be something that you're
not," said Pettigrew. "Finally, be true to your relationship: you have
to be committed."
Annual Edition 'Buying Power of Black America' report
breaks down billions in expenditures (January
19, 2010) Black consumers are responding to tighter economic
condition by focusing more of their spending on items and services
that improve their homes and lifestyle. That's one of the trends
revealed in the 15th annual report, "The Buying Power of Black
America," published by Target Market News. The report analyzes
spending for black households in 2008 and finds that