Digital Media

Is Urban a Euphemism for Black?

…I don’t believe it is, but it’s obvious that a lot black/urban niche sites disagree with me. Over time the terms black and urban have become dangerously close to being intermingled in respects to web applications, content, and marketing, making it very difficult to identify an audience. As most of us know, one of the most important rules when building any product is “identifying your target audience”, and using the word urban instead of the word black makes this essential task so much more difficult.

So why use urban? It’s obvious that most Black niche sites use the word urban to be more inclusive to non-black people, but while branding themselves urban, many black people are being excluded. A quick poll of some of my friends and random black people I talked to showed me that quite a few black men don’t associate themselves with being urban, for various reasons. From one I heard, “I’m too old to be urban”, another reported “I don’t listen to hip-hop”, one young man told me that, “I am from the country, I can’t be urban?” This was far from a professional focus group so take from it what you may, but to me this showed that there were too many different perceptions of the word urban, and not many of them exclusively point to black. But somehow this “Urban branding trend” has started to run rampant in black web technology.

So what’s the solution? If you’re targeting black people then do so, but don’t pigeon hole all blacks into the urban category. Build websites and structure content that reflects the diversity of black people, because no matter our shape, size, shade, or views we can all agree with the fact that we’re black, and as long as the content reflects that fact black people and non-black people will come.



8732 says:

IMHO, the term “urban” portrays street, i.e. urbanwear means streetwear. And it doesn't necessarily mean urban portrays “black”. Though they are great examples for urban culture especially in urban wear.

8732 says:

IMHO, the term “urban” portrays street, i.e. urbanwear means streetwear. And it doesn't necessarily mean urban portrays “black”. Though they are great examples for urban culture especially in urban wear.

carla says:

I think one of the the relevant factors is that ‘urban’ is also a eupemism for hip, cool, stylish and entertaining now too. It is truethat not all black people are urban and there is an age when you might no longer be comfortable being associated with the hip and urban culture associated with the youth. It’s also true that as black people we’re still fighting to be seen as more than the all singing, all dancing, stylish entertainers. We’re still shouting ‘hey wait a minute! We’re alot more than that!’ snd it seems at times we’re not being heard. The truth is we’re a diverse and complex people with a whole lot more to offer than music, dancing, creative language and baggy clothes. I have to say though the urban culture that has become associated with our inner city black youths is nothing for us to be ashamed of as a people. We are colourful, interesting and dynamic. We’ve set trends in fashion, entertainment and popular culture in a way that no other racial group has.

8thlight says:

It’s not a euphemism for black as much as a euphemism for certain people of any color, but primarily black, who have an affinity for a certain type of lifestyle or culture associated with the city. It just happens to be that blacks make up a majority of the fan of that lifestyle often.

But, then again, what would you make of Urban Outfitters? That’s not very black.

Ryan B. says:

“Mr. Mecca” & Hashim,

You both nailed it without offending or excluding anyone.

In the mean time let’s focus on what’s really important: Obama’s Election, encouraging Youth to attend College, fixing the economy, coming together so that we can receive more RESPECT from the Mainstream Blogosphere, etc.,

Great post Markus!

Markus says:

I guess my problem with the word “Urban” from the marketing perspective the fact that its not a clearly established word. There’s so many definitions, it makes defining your content’s mission so much more difficult.

Imagine if Black Enterprises was Urban Enterprises or Ebony Magazine’s
Goal was provide a unique and engaging forum to explore the impact of the world on Urban People and the impact of Urban People on the world.

Would they have had the same impact?

I agree great content and great conversations will find a great audience, but from the marketing perspective, defining your audience internally and externally is very important especially with websites where content is user generated or has some specific social networking goals like Black Planet.

BTW Check out Wikipedia’s definition of urban culture.

Hashim Warren says:

The word “urban” is a marketing term that should be used only when you’re doing business with another company.

When you’re speaking to end users, you should never use that term. You shouldn’t use “black” either. Just create content that speaks to your audience, and they will catch the hint without anyone being excluded.

MrMecca says:

From a marketing perspective….I think ‘urban’ is one of the most all inclusive marketing terms for African American culture and those who associate themselves with various facets under the term

Depending on what lens you’re wearing urban could mean many things…

– people living a city vs rural area (not the black connected term) – right
– hip hop culture – half right
– a segment of people that identify with a lifestyle or culture that could be influenced by a dominant group (in this definition…urban culture in america is influenced by black culture) – perfect

Alloy marketing came up with a term called Urban Hustler…it very much fit where a lot of things are going with a certain segments of AA culture…check it out

It’s a matter of semantics and forum if you ask me.

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