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