Steve Stoute’s memorabilia-laced penthouse office is perched high above the hustle and bustle of Times Square, and no wonder. Stoute is a man who likes to be in the center of it all. As the founder of the advertising agency Translation, he’s been at the forefront of marketing to a multicultural consumer base. In 2005, he entered the beauty world, when he and some of his high-wattage friends—including Will and Jada Pinkett Smith and Shawn “Jay Z” Carter—invested in Carol’s Daughter. While he’s since ceded day-to-day duties to chief executive Richard Dantas and founder Lisa Price, Stoute remains a hands-on partner and lead investor, overseeing strategic brand expansion and partnerships. On the eve of the publication of his first book, The Tanning of America, Stoute took some time out to talk about multicultural marketing, the beauty gap and why he never takes no for an answer.
You’ve become the go-to guy for the corporate behemoths who want to reach the urban market and its followers. Is the mainstream becoming more savvy about marketing to urban America? Urban culture has definitely influenced mainstream culture. Urban culture is where a lot of trends are developed, which then spread out wide and become mainstream consumption patterns. How do you market towards that? If the question is, how do you market or embrace this multicultural dimension of thought, and then use those trends and those demographics to help build your brand, I’ve seen a lot of brands do that very successfully. I’ve also seen a lot of brands look at that as a trend that won’t have sustainability in mainstream culture and fail to realize they should be a part of it. They subsequently fail.
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