Buppie Power

In 1988 Jack Daniel’s created a whiskey for the era’s “it” demographic — Yuppies. Gentleman Jack was a mellower mash with a pricier point meant to win share of mouth among young urban professionals. Today’s “it” demo is Black. With $1.6T in purchasing power, Black America is a brand-making, value-creating juggernaut.

It has been nearly five years since McKinsey & Company marked the market at half that. You can give corporate America a pass for missing dated, diminutive data.

Still, impressive newer numbers whoosh past marketers like a Mercedes EV in stealth mode. The college gap chasm has narrowed to a 3% crevice. Since 2019, Black household net worth rose 50% faster than for non-Black households.

Blacks are the fastest-growing group of stock owners. The story needs to be told with the full throaty roar of a Ferrari on a track. 



On the first day of Black History Month, the world’s best, and only Black Formula 1 driver, Lewis Hamilton, left Mercedes to drive for Ferrari. I got this text from my friend, Calvin Butts: “I sold my Tesla stock today to buy Ferrari.” Calvin is a Trustee at Hampton University, an HBCU (historically black college or university) and Ferrari driver. By the end of the day, Ferrari stock was up 9% and the company was worth about $7B more. Calvin’s next text was: “This is what happens when a brand does something authentic to recognize the Black community, we respect and value it.”

A hundred years before Cream played their souped-up version of Robert Johnson Crossroads at the Fillmore in 1968, an enslaved man named Nathan “Nearest” Green was teaching Jack Daniels how to distill whiskey. That was corporate’s story to tell. They didn’t. Fawn Weaver heard it and fell in love with it.

Fawn Weaver created her super brand the way Stan Lee created his super heroes. Telling the amazing backstories of larger-than-life characters. By distilling authentic Black history, her distillery is America’s fastest-growing whiskey brand. 

To be sure, there are black brands and there are brands that start in the Black community and go mainstream. Bevel, for example. Tristan Walker created a shaving brand for Black men “Because we deserve better.” Procter & Gamble bought Bevel in 2018 to roll it out to more audiences. 

Fawn is adamant that Uncle Nearest is not a Black brand. It’s an American success story because America sips her scotch, and “If it’s good enough for one market, it’s good enough for all markets.” 

It’s getting harder for any brand to overlook the young, professional Black market. The median age of Black America is ten years younger than white America. The community is more brand-aware, more tech savvy, and jumps on trends faster.

So, where better to tell your story than to young Blacks destined for success than on HBCU campuses?

Moderna is best-known for being the other company with a COVID shot. You see their ads at the US Open Tennis championships and on the floorboards at Lakers games. Last fall, they took their message to HBCUs. They were front and center at homecomings at Hampton, Howard, and other schools. Prudential is on 23 HBCU campuses.

Because, Prudential says, “HBCUs are a key part of the company’s Blueprints to Black Wealth initiative.” With Black employment at a record high, Prudential believes that this is an important time to help the Black community build generational wealth. Their research shows over 80% of Black Americans plan to pass down some form of wealth to their families. They see the community’s unity and accelerating trends. 

Maybe more marketers just need a cutesy handle they can use in their PowerPoint decks that reminds them of the Perrier-sipping, Prince-racket-wielding, Polo-wearing brand conscious set that made BMW the ultimate driving machine. What can we call a community waking up to their immense force, cut across corporate lines, united by a shared history with the power to move markets, build brands, and cradle success? I suggest, Buppies.

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