Thursday, April 5, 2007

10 Elements in Successful Urban Marketing

By Cliff Goins (

The following post is an excerpt of an article I wrote targeted at the publishing community, but the concepts are applicable across industries:

While there is no quick solution to effectively marketing to the urban market, I have identified ten important marketing elements, in no particular order, based on a recent Hunter-Miller Group presentation, which can lead to successful campaigns:

1. Heterogeneity. One example of heterogeneity is the stark distinction in attitudes between Generations X and Y versus Boomers, especially as it relates to race relations and ethnicity. Younger generation African Americans are more likely to embrace a multicultural marketing approach while older generation individuals are more sensitive to seeing African American role models. This and many other differences suggest that a cookie cutter approach would likely be ineffective at best.

2. Relationships. As it is in everyday life, relationships are key to unlocking the potential of the urban market. African Americans must feel you care. Personal invites, direct mail, and affinity clubs persistently done over time bode well.

3. Cultural nuances. African Americans are trendsetters in many ways in American culture. Large companies from Pepsi to Cover Girl to Viacom recognize this phenomenon and have tailored many of their marketing campaigns to accommodate. In addition, use of everyday lingo and life situations in marketing materials allows companies to speak to the urban market in their own language.

4. Genuine inclusion. One of the regrettable aspects of living in a society that once had slavery as an institution is the psychological toll taken on African Americans. The exclusionary nature of the slave trade ingrained in many African Americans the need to feel a part of the overall society. To this end, companies that authentically involve and engage the urban marketplace in their processes, products, and services gain instant credibility.

5. Word-of-mouth. This is the proverbial holy grail of marketing. Last year, an African American woman working for Genworth Financial convinced her superiors to give her less than $100,000 to market directly to the African American community. Using the platform of her sorority, she generated over $34 million in mortgage business. How did she do it? One sorority sister told another sorority sister who told a friend who told a family member…you get the picture.

6. Instant gratification. In a “right now” society, African Americans are even more apt to take advantage of opportunities to be quickly satisfied. At my bookstore, “free”, “sale”, and “discount” do wonders for traffic.

7. Respect. Along the lines of genuine inclusion comes the issue of respect. African Americans want to know that companies value their feedback, their culture, and their worth as a person, Ultimately, urban market participants want to be treated as if they are important.

8. African American media. 74 percent of African Americans cite African American media as their primary or secondary source of credible information. Judson Press regularly targets magazines that have predominant African American audiences such as Gospel Today, Precious Times, and Black Issues Book Review. Many of its resources are reviewed in these publications. Successful urban marketers must utilize black media.

9. Positive African American images. The urban market craves positive images to combat the many negative stereotypes that exist as it relates to African Americans. According to Pepper Miller, “Strategies that continue to show us in a powerful, normal light—especially those that counter negative stereotypes—will work well within the urban market.”

10. Targeted communications. General market campaigns do not work well when attacking the urban market. Judson cites a successful partnership with the Christian African American Booksellers Association (CAABA). Membership allows Judson to do targeted marketing via CAABA’s Munce produced catalogs to dozens of Christian African American bookstores around the country. Marketing What Did Jesus Say: A Daily Devotional Journal heavily during Christmas of 2004 caused the resource to sell out.



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