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Youth Culture: Uniting Nations Through Hip-Hop

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From anti-American riots to United States product boycotts, depictions of today's international youth can often show discontentment with American culture, business and policies.

While this segment may protest in the streets, they will still pay homage and respect to early hip-hop pioneers reigning from New York City. For decades, hip-hop has broken down political barriers and tension with international countries.

After significant global crises, the United States attempted to reposition and market itself to international markets by showcasing qualities of religious freedom and a diverse culture. Despite millions of dollars invested, these messages were not well received and failed to present the U.S. in a more positive light. The solution for influence and effective messaging rests in the hands of the urban culture, as recent research shows the power this segment has to break down barriers politicians and professionals have been struggling to abolish for years. Though they may not share political views or agree with war tactics, urban culture brings a sense of identity and similarity amongst younger people.

While social, political and economic differences have created animosity towards the acceptance of American products, this urban subculture can break down global barriers. The findings of our recent paper published by the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, "Cross-Cultural Cool: Consumer Implications of Urban Identification in the United States and Hong Kong," highlight the global impact of urban culture by identifying and defining urban consumers' attitude, style and identification with hip-hop in the U.S. and China. Despite age, culture and religion, even the most bitter international rivals see eye to eye on urban identification. By understanding the motives and lifestyles of young people around the world, marketers now have invaluable insight into strategies to elevate this common identity rather than just using multi-cultural faces in ads.

A segment often incorrectly categorized by race or ethnicity, the study finds the urban segment offers a unique and diverse blend of consumers influenced by preferences, attitudes and lifestyles of inner-city American youth and hip-hop culture. As the mass media reaches more audiences, this urban segment has influenced markets by reducing animosity towards U.S. products and increased their willingness to purchase American brands.

Style, Personality & Hip-Hop

After identifying terms that define the urban subculture, the research offers three primary factors that identify this segment -- style, personality and affiliation with hip-hop. From music celebrities to sports figures, urban leaders serve as purveyors of information and influence the purchasing decisions of this segment comprised primarily of 16- to 34-year-olds. With roots firmly entrenched in hip-hop culture, the urban market is heavily influenced by rap music and pop culture, which influence sales of 'culturally cool' items including specific luxury brands.

The Chinese Market

As globalization spreads the materialistic ideology of the West throughout the world, new markets such as China are becoming increasingly important for U.S. marketers. The study found young consumers of the urban subculture in Hong Kong are similar to their U.S. peers by gathering information and being influenced by the entertainment industry. Though they may disagree with U.S. war tactics and public policies, urban identifiers in China are more willing to purchase U.S. products -- despite existing animosity or fundamental differences.

Recommendations to Marketers

Urban identifiers are a lucrative market, and their influence extends to others in their household and other parts of society. By understanding the components that influence this segment, advertisers can effectively target these consumers. From product positioning to message development and media strategies, marketers can generate more favorable views of U.S. products by reaching international consumers who identify with this group. Despite the opportunities, marketers should consider their existing consumers when marketing to younger segments and hiring celebrities. Brands must stay true to their identity while keeping a finger on the pulse of urban culture.