For many savvy African-American consumers, this celebration finds them asking, "Where are the 'living' success stories that can inspire us? Why can't marketers innovate and try a new way to connect with us besides fake Kente cloth and Harlem Boys Choir songs in every commercial?" What these questions point to is a sentiment that we at Alloy Access continue to hear echoing throughout the country as we conduct qualitative research amongst millennial African-American consumers. What we have heard, analyzed and translated, has culminated into what we are calling "The New Black" consumer.
When expressing who they want to be, we often hear that, in the past, the Gen Y AA consumer's options for role models were few and far between -- usually either an athlete or an entertainer. Up until recently, AA youth have had very few tools through which they could negotiate their identities. A large part of their identities were shaped by what was being marketed and sold to them as "urban." "Urban," although born out of hip-hop culture, soon became a stereotypical catch-phrase and a confining signifier for AA youth.
Fast forward -- post-digital divide, post-Katrina, the Obama era, the "tools" at their disposal have grown exponentially -- via the Internet, social networks and the blogosphere. Their aspirations, expressions of self and expectations of self (their community and brands) have also become more multi-faceted and dynamic. They know their voices are powerful and that they should be heard; they have platforms to be heard at the touch of a click.
What we've seen is that AA youth -- who cyclically reconstruct themselves in response to stereotypes and socio-economic status -- are in the midst of a moment of re-definition. The two most important factors catalyzing this evolution and re-definition are technology and the Obama effect. The degree of access these young people have to the Internet (i.e., social networking sites) is helping to reshape their world while simultaneously connecting them with like-minded youth globally. Their unprecedented connectivity via mobile platforms is allowing these young people to receive, distribute, and create content -- and they are doing so at impressive pace. This new level of connectivity is also empowering them and allowing them to leverage their social capital with brands.
The Obama effect is leading to a "sky's the limit" attitude and a mindset that is catalyzing these Millennials to see themselves as more than consumers, trendsetters, athletes and entertainers. They now see themselves as change makers, entrepreneurs and cultural creators. These young people feel inspired and empowered to positively impact change. They feel a responsibility to impact change, in large part because they don't trust adults to make the world better for them. They are using their social networks and social currency to connect with like-minded youth, brands & organizations to create change.
At Alloy Access, we feel that it's our obligation to meet these young people where they are, with new multi-dimensional representations of blackness, with innovative platforms that create "tri"alogues, while simultaneously inspiring them to move forward as living expressions; beacons of Black History in the making.
This sentiment got us thinking, "Let's initiate a dialogue with our colleagues and partners that will reflect what we've been hearing and hopefully get more voices involved." With that in mind, we created a video series aimed at exposing the industry to the "New Black" consumer. We partnered with Chike Ozah and Coodie Simmons, the founders of CreativeControl.tv., who truly understand this "New Black" movement and its impact on global culture .They have an extraordinary ability to tell the stories of these young people. We invite you to view the video and share in the dialogue.