Farnaz on Featured, Multicultural Branding and Marketing, Negating Stereotypes, Redefining Archetypes, New Face of America, New World Trends, New Realities

The Emerging Middle Class Culture In America

We are about to redefine the culture of middle class in the US, and most people and companies are not aware.  Some of us who are, ignore it or simply not happy about it.  Just the word “multicultural” draws in polarized reactions.  This is one of the three macro trends that I define as imperatives for business and social success in the future.  And it is shaping the emerging middle class in America.

I remember the marketing days when Latinos were primarily segmented into the lower income category.  But that is no longer the case, is it?  According to a new Nielsen report published last month, Latino’s income growth during the past decade has significantly surpassed the nation’s average.  Although 43% of Latino’s still earn below $35k/year (versus 35% total), 36% earn $35-75k (at par with 34% total) and growing at a higher rate.  What may be even more surprising to most is that 10% earn $75-100k, which is a 31% growth since 2000…. and 11% over $100k per year, which is a dramatic 71% increase.

Over 52 million strong, or 1 in 6, Latino buying power of $1 trillion in 2010 will change to $1.5 trillion by 2015.  You can expect Latino population and buying power to continue growing even with the decline in the immigration numbers.

Let’s put this into context… There are more Latinos in the US than Canadians in Canada, Malaysians in Malaysia, or South Africans in South Africa.  Latinos in the US represent second-largest Latino nation, right after Mexico, and before Spain, Columbia and Argentina.  If a standalone country, the buying power would be one of the top 20 economies in the world.

In my November blog, how to reach the fastest growing Asian market, I explained how the Asian market is over-indexing the US national average in just about every meaningful consumer category—specially in income, education and family size.  With this recent study showing Latino income on the rise, we can safely say that the landscape of American middle class is rapidly changing into a multicultural mosaic.  We are about to redefine the culture of middle class in America, which will in turn redefine every aspect of the pop culture, consumerism, politics, economy and business.  Just think of how branding strategies will have to shift for retail, residential buying, food, education, financial services, transportation, entertainment and media.

American marketers have never relied on a broad-stroke depiction of White consumers.  They should keep the same mindset when it comes to Latinos and other racial/ethnic groups.  Stereotyping the Latinos or Asians in the US will not be any different than stereotyping Caucasians.

According to Census, among US children, Hispanics are already 1 in 4 of all newborns.  Hispanics, Asians and multi-racial children accounted for all the US youth growth in the last decade.  Think of how this will define the next generation of our country.  The multi-racial children are clearly the result of inter-racial marriages.  Marriage across racial and ethnic lines has doubled since 1980, with 41% of all intermarriages in 2008 between Hispanics and whites, 15% between Asians and Whites, 11% between blacks and whites, and 16% in which both parties are non-white.

Contrary to the popular belief on language barrier, Neilsen particularly notes that Latino consumers’ usage rates of smartphones, TV, online video and social networking/entertainment makes this group one of the most engaged in the digital space.  During February 2012, Latinos increased their visits to social networks/blogs by 14% from a year ago.  This is also true for all multicultural population as Gen Y is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in American history.  Unlike the ethnic groups in previous generations assimilating in the mainstream culture, the new and young multicultural populations take big pride in their ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and are considered acculturated.

This article is not intended to be an advertising campaign for Hispanic media and agencies.  For me, it is critical to add that older, white males are just as much part of the multicultural societies as any other ethnic groups.  I define Multiculturalism by a mosaic of different cultures in one platform, and a society that is ethnically and culturally diverse.  That does not mean excluding Caucasians or implying ethnic minorities only.

So, how are you defining or stereotyping your multicultural initiatives?

 

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How to reach the fastest growing Asian market: 10 tips to get started

When you look for a new doctor these days, how many Asian doctors do you find?  How many engineers, professors, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and CEOs?  Did you know South Asians generally over-index the US National Average in just about every meaningful consumer category?  Are businesses ignoring the marketer’s dream come true?  What are the prejudices and biases that are holding companies back from reaching this higher income, more educated, larger families and growing market?

Check out these Census facts:

  • With 14.5 million Asians in the US, up 43% from the last census, Asians are the fastest growing minority group, very affluent and high educated, with household income 26% above Whites.
  • Asian Americans have the highest educational attainment of any group, 49% have at least a bachelor’s degree (vs. 28% US avg).  They also have the highest household income levels of any racial demographic at $65,637 (vs $38,885 US avg) with 28% exceeding $100K.
  • South Asian population has doubled in the last decade.  Indian population, specifically, has grown 70%.  And 67% of all Indians have a bachelor’s or higher degree.  Almost 40% have a master’s, doctorate or other professional degree, which is five times the national average.  1 in every 9 Indians in the US is a millionaire, comprising 10% of all US millionaires.
  • South Asian households are 29% larger than the national average.  And 93.6% speak English.
  • Although Iran is not technically considered “Asia” by Census, I’ll include for my loyal Persian readers: 51% of Iranian-Americans have a bachelor’s or higher degree, and 1 in 4 hold Masters or PHD.  An NPR report recently put the Iranian population of Beverly Hills as high as 20%.  Almost 1 in 3 households have annual incomes of more than $100K (compared to 1 in 5 US Avg).  According to a study carried out by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Iranian scientists and engineers in the US own or control around $880 billion.

So when you think or speak of multicultural branding or strategy, are you ignoring this fastest growing group?  What marketer wouldn’t want to reach a more educated consumer with higher income and larger families without a re-deployment of marketing dollars?

The 2010 census data reported, of the 27.3 million added to US population in the last decade, only 2.3 million were Whites.  While Hispanics accounted for well over half our gains, Asians made the next biggest contribution.  There is an absolute decline of white population under 18, as well as somewhat smaller decline of black youths.  Hispanics, Asians, and multiracial children accounted for all of the net growth of nation’s youth.  And I believe the Asian numbers are under-reported through Census, since there is a big debate about race versus ethnicity.

The world “Multicultural” was intended to represent a mosaic of different cultures in one platform.  But somehow it became a buzzword limited to initiatives toward Hispanics, as “Diversity” did the same with African Americans.  That’s why I coined the phrase “New World Marketplace” to represent a new type of customer-influencing mainstream culture. It’s important to recognize that various multicultural values have now become part of the fabric and reality of American society.

Here are 10 easy tips to get started that will apply to all multicultural branding and positioning:

  • Learn how much of your current sales volume is being generated by multicultural customers.  It may be more than you think.
  • Then, learn exactly what demographic groups you could and should target for your products and services.  How much sales potential in each market?
  • Get to know your existing and new targets.  You can only do so by spending days in the life of your customers.
  • It all starts with the great product, which transcends all cultural differences.  Make sure you have the right product and services and you are speaking to the needs and values of the customers who are actually buying them.
  • Research and research more.  Not just about product attributes, but also about how your new customers want to feel and be treated as a part of the totality and oneness of the market.
  • Consult with experts.  I am one of so many.  Learn to use the right cultural symbols to avoid offending the very people you’re trying to attract.
  • Sharpen your sensitivity to cultural standards and taboos.  Dig deeper into the values and beliefs and leverage on “shared” values.
  • Avoid all stereotypes and clichés.  Design your marketing materials to depict multicultural customers in a wide variety of roles.
  • Include a multicultural budget in your 2012 budget.  Link compensation to multicultural performance for the sake of profit growth.
  • Be authentic, honest, respectful and consistent.  Once you open the doors to build the relationship, stay the course to maintain the relationship.

 

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Marketing To Customer’s Inside, Not Outside

It doesn’t take a visionary to know that the world is different from the way it was only a decade ago.  And it will be even more different a decade from now.  It’s the pace and complexity of the cultural shifts that has brought on the degree of change that is shaking up society as we see it today.  Walk through any retail store or business office today, and you will see how “we” is getting trickier to define in terms of image, race, ethnicity, lifestyle and culture.

Image by definition means a representation of the external form of a person or thing – the opinion or concept of something that is held by the public.  When you think of an Asian, Muslim, Hispanic or African American person or customer, what images come to mind?  What type of stereotypes, biases and prejudices are holding you and your organizations back from relating and engaging cross-culturally?

When I was a CMO, I was an Iranian woman at an American company.  I had tattoos and multi-colored hair.  Sure, I wore my Prada suits, and dressed differently at work than at the beach or a visit to an ashram.  But I projected an image that traditional business wasn’t comfortable with.  And guess what?  I drove five consecutive years of sales growth, something that more conventional CMOs in that role had never done.  People ask me how I did it.  Simple.  I brought forth my passion, built a great team of multi-and-cross-cultural talent, and looked inside the multicultural target customers.  I avoided all stereotypes.

The new millennium has marked a change from traditional business practices and stereotypical views of gender and ethnic roles in a society.  More and more everyday, companies and agencies are aiming cross-cultural marketing towards general market.  The automotive industry, as an example, has done a great job in multicultural branding.  But despite dollars and efforts spent, a study showed that a multicultural customer going to a car dealer is kept waiting 27% longer.  How many times does a sales person judge what the customers can spend just by looking at them?  Isn’t everyone looking for value these days?

Yes, I am an evangelist for 3 major macro trends:  Women, Youth and Multi-and-Cross-Cultural.  But by no means do I intend to imply that it should be a woman’s world where White or older men should not be valued.  I believe in an androgynous mind and a color blind society – a world where performance and ethical values meet.  As Seth Godin puts it, companies we think of as ethical got that way because ethical people made it so.

Next time you are re-evaluating your Value Proposition, and conducting marketing research, don’t get lost in the pile of facts and data.  Consider tapping into internal motivators and values, and communicate your marketing messages accordingly.  More importantly, make sure your customer experience delivers on your brand promise.   You must be willing to forsake all your past biases and prejudices to succeed in the New World Marketplace.  And it is time to market and engage customers from their inside, not their outside image.

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A Different Look at Gen Y

If I was born from 1982 to somewhere close to 2000, I’d be feeling pretty unique and awesome by now.  Let’s look at some Gen Y characteristics that are stereotyped:  idealistic and socially conscious, confident, ambitious, achievement-and-team-oriented, authenticity seekers, attention cravers, culturally liberal, virtual relationships, engage or loose me, ask and guide me, immersed in the digital world from an early age….  This is known to be a generation of self-confident optimists due to years of helicopter parenting and unconditional positive reinforcement from work-centric and goal-oriented Baby Boomer parents who over-compensated for how tough they had it.

While all that may be true, when was the last time we asked a Hispanic, African American, Asian or multiracial Gen Y if these so-called core traits apply to them?  Did they have helicopter parents hover reassuringly above them?  I’m not convinced that socio-economic groups other than white affluent teenagers display the same Gen Y attributes we read about.  It’s not that multi-and-cross-cultural parents don’t want to treat their kids as special, but they often don’t have the social and cultural capital, the time and resources to do it.

Since the 2000 Census allowed people to select more than one racial group, Gen Ys have asserted their rights to have all their heritages respected, counted and acknowledged. 2010 Census showed 32% growth in multiracial category from 2000, and on track to grow another 25%.

I think we can look for cross-cultural commonalities and find these shared values and characteristics:

  • Yes, first era of reality TV, rise of dot-com, virtual relationships
  • Change is mandatory, make it meaningful
  • Demand for authenticity and honesty
  • Culturally liberal, color and gender neutral if it weren’t for parents influence & 9/11
  • Family centric with much closer relationship with parents, unlike the “individualistic” Gen X’ers
  • Delaying some rites of passage into adulthood (for more on this, click here)
  • Love flexibility and work-life-balance even more than Gen X’ers
  • So, yes, perceived as a bit lazy by workaholic Boomers
  • Less employed than any other generation due to the economic situation starting up in
  • More educated, purchasing power rivals that of the Boomers
  • Leverage the digital world to connect, engage & motivate – but want it personal & real
  • Freedom, equality, opportunity, inspiration & honesty are cross-cultural shared values

How do you think all this will re-define Corporate America as Baby Boomers start to retire?  You’d have to be willing to make a difference to make a living.  Think of Lady GaGa and her message of “be who you are”, and Black Eye Peas, a group as multi-culti as you can get.  Cross-cultural messaging through commonalities works.  Start now.

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Are American Businesses Behind the Curve or Ready to Shift from Prejudice to Profit? 2010 Census Data Reveals New World Marketplace Has Already Arrived

Atlanta (May 2, 2011) – There is a $2 trillion marketplace that is up for grabs, and according to the 2010 US Census results, this market can only be defined as multicultural. The question is whether US businesses are ready and willing to make the changes necessary to take advantage of this critical demographic shift. From an aging white population to a growing youthful multicultural market where women have become key players, businesses that can adapt to this “New World Marketplace” will find themselves leading the way, while those holding onto traditional prejudices will falter. (more…)

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More is Less: Future of Branding

One more blackberry, one more orange juice, one more sandwich, another credit card…just slightly better.  Incremental differences are not game changers.  Sometimes more innovation can degrade a brand equity and position you in the manufacturing mindset– don’t speed up the line or it will never slow down.

Yes, freedom of choice is essential in pursue of happiness, but too much freedom can cause anxiety and confusion. Too many choices numb us, forcing us to opt out or make uninterested decisions.

Marketers often find another new & improved product, and create a campaign around it.  Much more effective is to find a small and eager target, find a branding story, then make a product that resonates and makes the story work.

At the end of every business line, there is a human being.  Think of these tips for future branding and relationships:

  • Use and align values and beliefs as the blueprint for growth – earn trust and attention and you will have loyalty.
  • Consumers will pay more for superior service, or give it up just for cheap.  Don’t bite more than you can chew, know your benefits and trade-offs.
  • Be transparent and authentic.  Consumers know when you’re not being honest, so do your competitors.
  • Satisfy higher human needs and connect through Purpose.  Sell a story that people want to believe.  Content that broaden their horizon, even when uncomfortable.
  • Endorse brand humility.  Once you believe you are exceptional, you stop innovating.  Become your own future rival.  Re-earn trust, attention and loyalty.
  • More is Less…unless you want to be Netflix or itunes, and put everything out there letting the market sort it out.  But where is the lever?

What type of 4-letter word is profit? It is and should be “good”.  Over-branding can kill profit.

 

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Is your business retail ready for new multicultural customers?

Everyday businesses across America open for business. Who is walking through the door has changed significantly. We’ve had a decade of rapid multicultural growth, aging whites and housing boom and bust. Is your business ready to serve the needs of the New World Marketplace customers in this transformational decade?

Here are some shocking facts recently released by 2010 census:

  • Hispanics now account for more than half of the US population increase over the last decade…a new milestone: 50 million, or 1 in 6 Americans. Among US children, Hispanics are already 1 in 4 of all newborns.
  • More than 9 million Americans checked more than one race category…up 32% from 2000…a sign of multiracial growth.
  • Hispanics and Asians are the two fastest growing demographic groups, increasing about 42% from 2000…Asians for the first time had the largest numeric gain than African Americans.
  • Multiracial Americans are on track to increase by more than 25%.
  • What’s even more shocking is that most companies still define “multicultural branding” as African American marketing…or if they are a bit more progressive, African American & Latino event sponsorships with possibly a small percent of ad budget. Really? Think again!!!

Here are a few frameworks to consider:

  • Re-evaluate your core target. What is “General Market” afterall?
  • Consider business models that capitalizes on motivations and attitudes with multicultural dimensions.
  • It is no longer about degree of acculturation and melding with the mainstream culture. It is now about influencing , shaping and defining it!!!
  • Dig deeper into the values and beliefs of your new multicultural customers….how they live, love, play…what they fear, resent…why they consume what they do. This goes beyond common held assumptions found in research questionnaires.
  • Choose an “emotional space” to create a meaningful relationship with your multicultural customers….choose how you’d like your multiculti customer to feel after walking into your business. It’s an outside/in mindset.

The key to the kingdom is changing hands. Multiculturalism is now the rule, not the exception. Take time to really understand your new customers, who are the potential growth that is walking in your door.

 

 

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