In the days before format radio, I listened to KLIF-AM in Dallas. KLIF played an amazing array of music not found on commercial radio stations today.
I particularly liked the R&B program hosted by Cousin Lenny. He began his broadcast at 10:00 p.m.—about the time I was supposed to be in bed sleeping. I'd pull out my blue Panasonic Toot-A-Loop radio and lie there listening to Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, The Stylistics and other R&B legends.
That was about the time I started taking drum lessons. Much to my parents' regret, I actually stuck with it. During the decade to follow, I studied and performed classical, jazz and rock. But still I loved R&B.
Over the years, I have cultivated an appreciation for R&B and its offspring, including hip-hop, house, rap and urban, in general. A benefit of my musical upbringing and interest has been a greater ability to understand youth culture in a manner that is decidedly non-adult-like.
In the research I conduct for Fortune 500 brands, this has been particularly helpful.
Why? Because in recent years not only has urban style become a part of mainstream music, fashion and culture, but also urban values have become drivers of trends in America. Many teenage consumers are in the sweet spot of this important segment.
Simply put, teens are the consumers of today and of the future. When a brand connects with a teen, it could tap into a lifetime of loyalty. On average, US teenagers have more than $90 per week in disposable income. This astonishes uninformed marketers who believe that teens have no purchasing power. In reality, teens have more than $190 billion annually in primary purchasing power and influence.
A skeptical client once remarked, “Yeah, but teens purchase only video games and pizza… they don't really buy expensive items.”