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Urban Lifestyle Demographic: Walking Through Colorblind Corridors With the ’80s Babies

If today’s youth are truly a colorblind demographic, how does that influence the way brands should market to them?

rainbow row

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“I’m trying hard to explore, I’m not sure
What all the racial war is for
It’s making me more sore
I walk through a color blind corridor
Seeking, for peace in the people I’m meeting
Black, White and Puerto Rican men are greeting each other
Just like brothers, there’s plenty and many of others
You can discover, kids fathers and mothers
In a melting pot, no one felt they got prejudiced
And I could never assist someone diss this”

The above lyrics are the opening lyrics from a rap song entitled Erase Racism. The remaining lyrics, of this song by Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, follow the same vein of not focusing on people’s racial and ethnic differences.

8os foursome

When this song was released in 1990, I was a big fan, and an aspiring MC. Kool G Rap was one of my lyrical influences and this verse in particular is one of my favorite rap verses of all time. Now I don’t know Kool G Rap, but I imagine that if he’s in a field or industry today that allows him to study the trends, attitudes, and behaviors of youth and young adult culture, particularly as it relates to both urban and multicultural, then he’s pretty proud right now. I say that because the very lyrics that we see above, that he first recited 20 years ago, are now pretty much the sentiment of an entire generation.

This generation of youth and young adults, primarily those born after 1979–our eighties babies and those younger–is a consumer group that truly “walks through colorblind corridors.” When we engage members of this consumer segment in dialogue, whether it’s discovery sessions, focus groups, ethnographies, etc… their true sense of unity really stands out. I walk away from sessions and/or conversations feeling like any of the young people that we just spoke with could have authored Kool G’s lyrics. That is their mindset. And the communication is not deliberate or overt, they don’t just come out and say it; it’s a genuine and intuitive part of their responses, reactions and behaviors. It’s who they are.

shoes

This is evidenced in the role that so many young people played in this country electing its first African-American President. They were not caught up on his race, they were drawn to a candidate who they could relate to and spoke their language and focused on the issues that were important to them. This holds true for favorite athletes, celebrities, artists and so on; sometimes, it’s just about lifestyle relevance. This is where the “urban” part of urban & multicultural marketing comes into play. Many of today’s youth and young adults share an urban lifestyle mindset. This mindset is fueled by Discovery, Expression, Diversity, and Connectivity. It transcends race, geography, and economic status. They are more focused on their commonalities than their differences. The commonality is what connects them and that’s primarily based on shared lifestyle interests.

My good friend and colleague Bobby Jones said to me recently “This generation of Urban Hustlers has learned not to judge others by the color of their skin, but rather by the content of their iPhones.”

Now this isn’t to say that race and ethnicity don’t matter when it comes to marketing, because they do. We should always acknowledge the diverse cultures and ethnicities and their contributions to our wonderfully diverse society; but in a way that is natural and organic and not forced and contrived. And because African-American culture and Hispanic culture both play such significant roles in what drives urban lifestyle, it’s important to have ongoing insight into those audiences.

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2000's foursome

Now this isn’t to say that race and ethnicity don’t matter when it comes to marketing, because they do. We should always acknowledge the diverse cultures and ethnicities and their contributions to our wonderfully diverse society; but in a way that is natural and organic and not forced and contrived. And because African-American culture and Hispanic culture both play such significant roles in what drives urban lifestyle, it’s important to have ongoing insight into those audiences.

In fact, there are also cases where it makes sense to market by culture or ethnicity in certain categories such as hair care or food. Because of this dynamic, brands should pay close attention in determining when you need to do multicultural marketing versus urban lifestyle marketing. Brands that truly want to establish stronger emotional connections and more profitable relationships with the 29 and under multicultural young adult segment need to think about targeting more by lifestyle interests than strictly ethnicity. Give them a cultural wink, no doubt, but appeal to their common lifestyle interests.

Read more of Tru Pettigrew’s Alloy Access blog

Tru Pettigrew


Tru Pettigrew is the President of Alloy Access. As its founder, Tru is passionate about providing fresh ideas and identifying emerging platforms to make products and brands relevant to today’s urban and multicultural consumers. Tru and his team travel around the country immersing themselves in culture at basketball courts, nightclubs, music stores and barbershops. In educating his Fortune 500 clients, he provides a reflection of today’s multicultural world. Tru started his career performing as one half of a Los Angeles-based rap duo. He executed promotions for Converse, which led to a position with Houston Herstek Favat. He later joined AMP Agency’s Triple Dot Communications (acquired by Alloy) and co-founded its consumer insights division.

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