Black Is the New Black

By way of introduction, I am William R. Sands (you can call me Bill), CEO and creative director of ethniciti, in Columbus, Ohio.  Having settled here in the heart of the Midwest many years ago after growing up in the south Bronx, I’ve made a career of understanding people’s needs and designing environments to make their lives easier and more fulfilling.  For the past 30 years, I’ve worked with large-scale retailers from Minneapolis to Mexico City, from Rio de Janeiro to Helsinki, and done consulting for individuals in the heartland.

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Not once have I been called upon to create a design or merchandise strategy directed to the modern African-American consumer.  In spite of all the ongoing dialog surrounding diversity, as an African-American I find it literally impossible (I am not alone) to acquire quality consumer goods that truly reflect my lifestyle, culture, knowledge, and sense of fashion.  I find this to be true not only in the Midwest, but in New York as well.

Why do you think that is?  Clearly it’s not because African-Americans in the United States lack clout or spending power.  We are, and will continue to be, a significant and rapidly increasing force in the American scene.  The Black population is growing at a much higher rate than the general population, 28% compared to 20.9%.  We have substantial purchasing power, $845.5 billion in 2007, projected to rise by 18% to $1 trillion in 2012.  African-American incomes over $50,000 have increased at a higher rate than average, 13% compared to 8% for the general population.


So what’s the problem?  Do the providers of goods and services not know, or don’t they care?

In some case they don’t know. African-Americans are not a homogenous group.  While society in general tends to see just Black, we look at ourselves through more thoughtful and critical lenses.  We recognize style, heritage, and upbringing as ways to determine our own destiny.  I created the video “New Pride and Social Awareness” to help spread the word.

youngbloodblog4The group I call Young Blood Rising, are twenty-somethings, fashion leaders, trend setters, the cool people we all want to be like.

Piece of the Rock are smart, aggressive, professional, creative people who are defining the lifestyles and aspirations of the modern African-American. pieceoftherockblog8

Old School Steady are our older contemporaries who remind us of the struggle, the good times, the bad times and what can be.

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Homeland Arrival are the diaspora, brothers and sisters from the African continent, the Caribbean, and South America who seek to prosper in a new place and find ways to contribute to the African-American experience.

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In some cases retailers, manufacturers, and advertisers don’t care. They have not come to recognize the enormous opportunity to offer and promote products and services that appeal specifically to the modern African-American consumer. They continue to make the same mistakes that the fashion and beauty industry did in the 1980’s by overlooking the preferences of African-Americans.  Out of that experience arose an entire industry dedicated to women of color.

Clearly with the election of Barack Obama, the country and the world are experiencing a renewed interest in the lifestyles of successful African-Americans.  I am sensing a New Pride and Social Awareness.  I am feeling a new opportunity to change the “systems” for the better on many levels.

In my blog, I hope to provide a forum for modern African-Americans, and others who appreciate the richness of our culture, to exchange ideas, concerns, information, and most importantly encouragement for those of us who have decided that enough is enough.

Let me know what you’re thinking.

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6 responses to “Black Is the New Black

  1. Hi, Bill. Welcome to the blogosphere. Thanks for adding your voice.

    I have this thought, which might be relevant. You ask whether African Americans are overlooked by marketing strategists: “Do the providers of goods and services not know, or don’t they care?”

    The answer might be: “Yes.” Perhaps it comes down to this question for Majority America: “Don’t tell me that some of your friends are Black. When was the last time you had Black dinner guests in your home?”

    Most gaps in marketing strategy (for me) boil down to this: out of sight is out of mind. Especially in issues of color.

    (Please forgive any potential offense in my message.)

  2. Hey Artie, no offense taken. At the end of the day it’s not about color but attitude and a market opportunity for those wise enough to see the potential

  3. Hi Bill,
    I think that marketers do overlook blacks. I found that other groups e.g. people over 35 are not their major target either. They focus on much much younger. Why? Since we have more money generally? I was told it’s because younger folks are more impressionable and spend what money they have more freely.

    I think advertisers — as creative as they are — are more in-the-box thinkers than outside the box. And in fact don’t see the potential of marketing/selling to the world as it truly is.

    BTW: I like your new blog and the header design.

    • Hey Kate, we agree. By in large most marketers ignore the notion of segmentation. As they look at the African-American consumer they are driven by what could be discribed as the dominant “pop version” of being black in America.They totaly miss the idea that like other cultures these groups look to furnish their homes in a style that comunicate who they are and how they want others to see them.Instead of attempting to drive their clients(manufactures and retailers) to respond to this unmet need, marketers continue to follow the path of predetermined solutions. While these boring approaches are efficent for the supply cain they are not even close to compelling presentations of Home Fashion for this well educated,well traveled,high net worth consumer

      Bill

  4. The Nest Keeper

    I am glad to see a blog that addresses these issues. Well written, Bill.

  5. Hi Bill,

    I have explored your website and blog and am very intrigued and excited by what I see and read. As a somewhat sheltered white kid in the Chicago suburbs, I have to say that my experience of African American culture was very limited. However, some of my most vivd memories are a direct result that same culture. I am a long time jazz and blues saxophonist and have lived my life vicariously through people like Charlie Parker, Buddy Guy and Charles Mingus. I have a great love of Southern soul food (ever been to the Loveless Cafe outside of Memphis?) and was magically introduced to Ethiopian food a few years back. One of my most amazing experiences was of sadly attending the funeral of a dear friend at a primarily black Baptist church in Chicago where I came away with such a tremendous sense of hope, joy and thankfulness for having known the woman that passed through how we celebrated her life that day. I also feel that President Obama is the best thing to happen to our country in a very long time!

    I don’t say these things as a laundry list of how I have made connections to African American culture, but only to express that I believe it is a large, crucial and cherished part of what is the bigger American experience. I have always found myself moved, fascinated and inspired by the self-expression and passion of all cultures.

    Anyhow, I probably sound like I am rambling, but know that I think what you are doing in celebrating and revering culture is very important.

    All my best to you,
    Chris Lee

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