Innovation Inspiration: Where will my growth come from?

02 Feb 2011|Added Value

Early analysis of the 2010 Census has already indicated what many marketers have known for sometime, that the U.S. is demographically becoming more infused with cultural identity consumers, particularly through the growth of African Americans and Hispanics.  A lot of analysis correctly will go into understanding how to serve these multicultural consumer segments, as they grow in size, financial power and importance.  For example, according to Geoscape, from 2000 to 2010  27.8 million Hispanics, African Americans and Asians were added, representing 80% of overall growth during the period.

Nearly 14.5 million additional Hispanics, 41% growth during the period, 53% of the total population growth.

More than 3.8 million non-Hispanic blacks, 11% growth during the period, 14% of total population growth.

Over 3.9 million more Asians, 38% growth during the period, 14% of total population growth.

What few marketers consider in a rigorous manner, we believe,  is how is the rise of cultural identity changing the “mainstream” market by creating new norms – which we actually quantified in a new study with The Futures Group entitled “Cultural Openness: the Intracultural New Mainstream in the U.S.”.
Read more: New research defines cultural openness and its impact on marketing strategy  

Traditional characterizations of ethnic identity have been studied for quite some time.  Notably, UCLA sociologist David Hollinger’s Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism provides a comprehensive analysis of the creation of the current system of defining cultural identity in the U.S., how we got here and why.  He takes the analysis further by suggesting that the utility of the cultural identity system in the U.S. is waning, and needs to be fundamentally rethought. Another treatise on the subject, albeit told almost exclusively from the African American experience in the U.S., is The Ordeal Of Integration: Progress And Resentment In America’s “Racial” Crisis – Paperback (Oct. 14, 1998) by Orlando Patterson.  Patterson, a Harvard sociologist, analyzes the dimensions of African American identity, their sources and shortfalls, and suggests a path forward toward integration into the U.S. “mainstream”. 

Relatively more recently, John McWhorter’s Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America  (Paperback – Jul 31, 2001)  and Eugene Robinson’s Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America (Hardcover – Oct 5, 2010) add differing perspectives of the social impact of changing African American identity.
We assert that the incredibly rapid rise of Hispanic and African American populations are creating new norms with consumers as a whole and new opportunities for marketers to be relevant on the basis of cultural identity. As an example, many marketers acknowledge that Millennials are the “multicultural” generation in that they have a very inclusive view of cultural identity. We believe it goes well beyond Millennials. We further argue that many marketers will be required to better understand – and will benefit from understanding – how cultural identity is changing consumers behaviors and attitudes.

Read more: Commentary on the Cheskin/Added Value/Futures Company study of cultural openness by Robert Suro, Managing Director of the Annenberg Innovation lab, University of Southern California

Our Cultural Openness study hopefully adds to the discussion, specifically:

1. The rise in ethnic identity in the Census shows the demographic reality, but there is an important attitudinal dimension that Marketers need to understand. Influential consumers are changing their traditional views of racial and ethnic identity roles, and are seeking greater engagement in ethnic identities other than their own.

2. Understanding cultural openness within U.S. consumers provides marketers the possibility to be relevant deeply and broadly. By tapping into a cultural identity truth, it will resonant deeply with consumers of that cultural identity and has the strong potential to appeal broadly with consumers outside of that cultural identity. Moreover, finding a specific ethnic consumer “truth” that carries a universal truth is the marketing home run.

3. With few exceptions, marketing infrastructure is not currently set up to understand or execute against ethnic identity’s rise in U.S. consumer attitudes. McDonalds has institutionalized it, General Mills, Pepsi, and Time Warner are moving in this direction. New metrics/measures are needed and cultural depth, especially ethnic identity depth is increasing in its relevance.

4. Multicultural marketing doesn’t go away. In some cases, it becomes a leader in a more holistic branding campaign. In most instances, it can be more complementary in overall marketing effort

Written by Stephen Palacios, Executive Vice President Cheskin Added Value

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