City people can be considered as trendsetters. It is almost in the DNA of city people to adapt smoothly to their ever changing social environments. They are an essential target audience for marketers, not least because those in the rural areas, especially youngsters, are heavily influenced by the latest trends in Europe’s metropolitan areas.

Cities in Europe and around the world have always attracted migrants. Cities are the places to study, find jobs, build up careers and start a family. London and Paris, Madrid and Rome, Copenhagen and Vienna are basically rooted as centres of migration, built up by migrants. Historically, migrants flocked to Europe’s cities from nearby towns and villages, but in the past few decades migrants have flown in from all continents.

City people tend to try out new products and services sooner than those in the rural areas. In a study on sports brands in the Netherlands, city youngsters appeared to be aware of the fact that there is a new Nike model in shops every month, while rural youngsters appeared not to have such awareness.

Why are city people often considered as trendsetters? Is it because their environment is always changing? City people have to cope with new migrants, coming in from unknown destinations, opening new shops with exciting food, listening music they’ve never heard before. Need city people have a mindset that is more open than the mindset of those in the rural areas, where life throughout the years never changes that much?

Likely so. The implications are that those who are of the urban mindset are more easily influenced by the perception of the latest trends, making urban minded people an exciting target audience for marketers.

In Europe, Nike, FunX and Trace Media are in the forefront of Urban Marketing. And those brands who are seen as a credible partner within the urban market have a great influence on the choices of many consumers in both urban and rural areas, especially youngsters.

Urban Marketing versus Ethnic Marketing

There is a major difference between Urban Marketing and Ethnic Marketing. While Ethnic Marketing speaks directly to a group’s culture and roots, Urban Marketing refers to a particular urban lifestyle. Urban Marketing does not specifically target non-whites or ethnic minorities, it targets everyone with an urban mindset, no matter what ethnicity, country of birth, skin colour, sex or religion.

In spite of the differences, Urban Marketing and Ethnic Marketing can go very well together. When the urban, cross cultural lifestyle is central in developing marketing communications, adoption to communications platforms targeting specific ethnic consumers can often be done easily since many (not all!) of these consumers are an integral part of an urban lifestyle.

When the specifics of one distinctive ethnic group is central in developing marketing communications, it is often harder to adopt it to a wider urban and mainstream audience at a later stage. This will only work if that one specific ethnic group is seen as trendy throughout the country, like was once the case with the Latino population in the United States, taking advantage of the popularity of artists like Jennifer Lopez.

A mentality

The urban mindset is a mentality. Those who are of the urban mindset interact with other ‘cultures’, because these other ‘cultures’ are always within their social circle. They meet them at work, in local shops, schools, night clubs, eating places, fitness centres. People of the urban mindset are surrounded by fellow citizens with a wide variety of ethnic-cultural backgrounds. They are often influenced by the latest trends in fashion, music and communication technologies.

In many European cities it is no exception to find school classes with 25 children and 20 different ‘nationalities.’ The urban mindset is a mindset of all who live in Europe’s multicultural cities and interact with different ‘cultures’ as well as those who have the ambition to be part of Europe’s urban lifestyles.

What are the implications for marketers?

Brands like Nike do not pursue Urban Marketing strategies to specifically target ethnic minorities in Europe. They target urban and thus ethnic minorities with the sole objective of reaching out to the mainstream.

Throughout the ages, city culture has always influenced youngsters in the rural areas. What has changed is that in today’s world, where people migrate from one continent to another, cities have become extremely culturally diverse. The author of this book is often asked why the ethnic youth has such a strong influence on today’s youth culture in the Netherlands. The answer: statistics! Over half of the youngsters aged under 25 in the Netherlands largest cities are from ethnic minorities and thus put their distinctive mark on city culture, whereas the city’s youth culture has always put its’ mark on rural youth culture. Nothing has changed here, with the exception of the extended ethnic cultural diversity of the city’s population. When Moroccan-Dutch rapper Ali B travels to the northern Dutch province of Friesland for a live performance, many of his excited fans are young Frysian girls, blond hair, blue eyes!

A research in the UK carried out in 2006, has also shown that black and Asian groups impact on modern youth culture in Britain. According to Starfish Research, some 13 per cent of UK 16- to 24-year-olds have ethnic-minority backgrounds, with even 41% in London. Since the proportions of black, Asian, and mixed-race are even higher with the under-16s, this trend is set to grow significantly. The research among black, Asian, mixed-race and white youths between 16 and 24, uncovered a number of trends that will influence how to communicate with the UK’s modern youth.

Several factors have contributed to the evolution of a generation of ‘natural born consumers’, according to Starcom. The ‘bling’ aesthetic associated with black American hip-hop and reality TV shows making instant celebrities of contestants through magazines such as Heat have combined to make this generation obsessed with success - 60 per cent think money is more important than job satisfaction.

Ethnic Britons, overrepresented in the cities, have a distinct and disproportionate influence on youth trends and media - from mainstream expressions of this influence such as Kiss and MTV Base, to fast growing niche media such as Channel U.

One distinctive urban culture?

If Urban Marketing strategies are a great way to influence the mainstream youth, then what exactly is urban culture? A question not easy to answer.

The culturally diverse populations in Europe’s major cities put their distinctive mark on local urban culture. In Paris, the large Maghrebi, Antillean and West African populations put their mark on Paris’ youth culture. On the MCM music channel it is easy to discover the influence of North- and West African as well as Antillean music culture on today’s French pop music. In Rome, East Africans put their mark on local youth culture, while London‘s youth culture is influenced by the Asians and Afro-Caribbeans. Within single European countries we also find a lot of differences. In Amsterdam, the Moroccan and Surinamese are dominant factors in the city’s youth culture, while in Rotterdam the large Cape Verdean population is also strikingly present in local youth and especially music culture.

The mainstream in the UK is not yet as open to pop music in non-English languages, while Arabic and African melodies in British pop music are often a bridge too far. On the other hand, Afro music styles such as reggae, dancehall, R&B and of course hip-hop do have a strong influence on British pop. In France and the Netherlands it is not uncommon to find different languages, from Arabic and Wolof to Spanish, in the mainstream pop charts, while African, Turkish and other non-European music styles are not that unusual. In Sweden, Iranian-born singer Arash reached the number one spot with the Persian language song Boro Boro.

Every marketer who steps into Urban Marketing, whether this is in Germany, Austria, Norway, Spain, Portugal or any other European country, also steps into City Marketing or, to put it better, Street Marketing. As we have seen, urban culture in the U.S is not the same as urban culture in Europe and urban culture in Amsterdam differs from urban culture in Berlin, Stockholm or Machester.

User generated content

Implementing Urban Marketing strategies also means stepping into a process where it is the youth themselves having a heavy influence on the way marketers market their products. It is not top-down marketing, but bottom-up.

Nike’s Panna Knock Out concept (see the brand experience chapter) was developed bottom-up. Nike didn’t know that for Amsterdam’s street footballers, playing the ball between the legs of their opponent is seen as more important than scoring a goal. The kids themselves explained this as a way to ‘humiliate’ their opponent. According to these kids, the word they were using for this act, was Panna, coming from the Surinamese language. In other words: the content of the series of Nike Panna Knock out events actually came from the kids themselves.

Developing marketing communications based on user generated content is likely to grow fast in the years ahead. The success of the YouTube website speaks for itself. MTV Networks is developing new platforms where bands can upload their own music videos. Many urban media platforms are largely based on user generated content, since this is the best way to respect the identities of the culturally diverse youth communities in Europe.

Identity and Loyalty

‘If you forget where you come from, you never gonna make it where you’re going’, is a line from the ‘All that I got is you’ duet between US hip-hop band Ghostface Killah and Mary J Blige. That is particularly true for all the hundreds of ethnic-cultural communities living in Europe’s major cities.
The first years of ones childhood are usually vital in developing a persons identity, ‘I was brought up Turkish, so I am Turkish’, is a quote from a Netherlands-born guy whose parents were born in Turkey. Never ask people to deny their ethnic cultural roots! Many ethnic minorities have double identities. They feel both Bangladeshi and British, Algerian and French, Eritrean and Italian, Iranian and Swedish, Russian and German, or Congolese and Belgian. Asking someone to give up a foreign passport is like asking to give up part your identity. Most people will never do such a thing.

When a persons religion is under attack, many will defend their religion and become even more proud of their roots. An Iranian-born Dutch woman, who had to flee Iran because of her opposition to Iran’s fanatical Islamic regime, said of ‘Islam bashers’ Afshin Ellian and Ayaan Hirsi Ali: ‘They are selling their parents for 20 Euro cent on the market, I will never do such a thing.’

Identity and loyalty are two different matters. ‘How can I be loyal to Morocco, when Morocco is only a holiday destination for me?’ Representing France, United Kingdom, Germany or Portugal in sports or any other field, often do not bring up dilemma’s related to loyalty. As long as it helps you to achieve your own ambitions. ‘If there’s a better chance of becoming world champion with Portugal, I represent Portugal, if it is more likely to become world champion with Angola, I represent Angola.’ It is a very rational approach.

We have to learn to accept that many ethnic minorities in Europe will not make a 100% loyalty pledge for one country or another. In today’s global village, that’s an unrealistic thing to ask.
International orientation

City people have a stronger international orientation than those in the rural areas. An Iraqi living in Valencia could have friends and family in the Middle East, Germany, United States, Australia. His social circle is not limited to the metropolitan area of Valencia, his social circle is global.

A Cape Verdean singer from Rotterdam has one mobile phone sim card for the Netherlands, Portugal, Cape Verde and a fourth for the United States. An Iranian living in Cologne spends his holidays with Iranians living in the Netherlands, France, United States, Australia and of course Iran. An email with a link to the latest website offering the hottest free downloads of ringtones, is sent by his friend living in the Iranian capital Tehran. And it is not a British Asians’ class mate in Bradford who puts his attention to the latest track from Snoop Dogg, it is his cousin from Karachi.

Those are the realities of Europe today! Many ethnic minorities in Europe are not only influenced by both local and global advertising. Their friends and family in Asia or the United States have as much influence on their buying behaviour as have their neighbours in ‘les banlieus’ of Marseille.
In that respect, urban lifestyles have both local and global components..