Can Luxury Brands Boost Black Achievement?

April 14, 2011  |  

“Right around the late 60s, you start to see the barriers legally removed but not socially removed,” he said. “Right around that time, you start to see the black identities coming out. There [was] a certain amount of ‘I guess we don’t have to do this anymore.’”

African-Americans quickly climbed a sociological and economic ladder to financial and educational opportunity. Still, many blacks couldn’t overcome the glass ceiling and enter the world of luxuries like their white counterparts.

Research shows that blacks who will search for energy in a glass of Circoc vodka will also search for power in a certain brand of car. In 2007, a survey of blacks by marketing research company Strategic Visions found that the reason so many black people buy Chrysler 300s is because it’s in their “vehicle DNA.”

The same survey revealed that 36 percent of blacks want to buy a new vehicle that is characterized as “classy,” and 35 percent want one that exemplifies “power.” The top cars that blacks bought in 2007 were Nissan Altimas and Chrysler 300s.

Often times, non-rich blacks will buy luxury brands to show that they measure up to or even surpass their white and black counterparts. In the black community, owning a luxury brand implies current success.

“They fool people into believing they are superior,” blogged economist Chris Dillow, a columnist for Investors Chronicle. “And this belief proves self-fulfilling. And like placebos, expensive ones work better than cheap ones.”

One question that Harvard Business School professor Roy Y.J. Chua had was, if chief executives surround themselves with expensive office facilities and corporate jets, will those luxuries allow them to make better business decisions than those CEOs who own smaller businesses?

Furthermore, can luxurious buys have beneficial placebo-like effects on the black psyche?

“My answer overall would be ‘NO’,” says Frankel. The “quick-buck artists” and uninformed kids are just victims of good marketing tactics, he added. “The rich black business people don’t give a damn about what vodka Diddy’s drinking! They’re reading The Journal!”

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