Urban Youth Stereotypes are Outdated; Brands Need to be Versatile and Authentic

Urban youth have long been stereotyped by marketers with images portraying them as gangsters, hip-​hop fanatics, or party enthusiasts. In the Obama era, these out-​dated stereotypes are alienating their intended consumer and possibly damaging a brand's reputation, says Tru Pettigrew, President of Alloy Access, speaking of "The New Black, The New Urban" marketing initiative. 

Urban is a mindset. It's a lifestyle grounded in specific interests and aspirations, Pettigrew says. This group represents a mix of ethnic backgrounds, ages, and geographies, but they all share traits such as ambition, the ability to set trends, and the tendency to be highly social. Urban consumers are go-​getters striving to upward mobility, he says.

"Connectivity and openness are two primary drivers of urban identity. Connectivity opened a space where like-​minded individuals can create a movement, and openness means acceptance of different cultures and attitudes," states Alloy's Director of Consumer Insights, Andre Pinard.

In order to connect with urban youth, brands need to incorporate expression, creativity, and discovery, Pettigrew says. This can range from customization of a product to inviting consumers to create content for a brand's website. Brands also must be versatile and authentic. It's critical that brands be aware of how these consumers view them and what they represent to the target audience. Brands should not become something they aren't, Pettigrew says.

Pettigrew concludes, "For the brands we work with, insights, strategy and innovation, both on and off line, are the keys to driving clients towards success. The most effective tactics will embrace consumer's passions across all the environments they frequent and provide tools for consistent interactivity and engagement, rather than a one-​way conversation. It's a relationship and you must be committed."

[Source:  "Connecting and Engaging:  How Marketers Can Effectively Reach And Relate To Urban Youth."  Alloy Access. (via EPM Communications Inc.:  Youth Markets Alert.  1 Jun. 2010.)]