March 2021 marks the one-year anniversary of the official declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The first case of coronavirus was reported in the U.S. in January 2020. Two months later, the infection rate was accelerating, prompting former President Trump to declare novel coronavirus a national emergency, unlocking billions of dollars in federal funding to mitigate the spread. What ensued was unprecedented. Worldwide quarantines shuttered businesses, churches, and schools, bringing life as we knew it to a screeching halt. Sports arenas were silent. Streets were vacant, and grocery store shelves bare.
U.S. consumers adjusted their expectations last year as COVID-19, social injustice, and contentious presidential and senatorial races sent the country into a tailspin. Given the unprecedented disruption, the findings of our sixth annual ThinkNow Pulse™ Report, a national survey examining consumer sentiment across key demographics in the U.S., are especially relevant as marketers scramble to get a pulse on the post-pandemic consumer. Fielded in December 2020, Americans report worsened personal finances and a perception of a weakening economy, and the outlook for 2021 didn’t fare much better.
2020 has been one of the most polarizing years in recent history. A global pandemic decimated the economy. The murders of Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd sparked a worldwide outcry for social justice. And the presidential election and ensuing calls for recounts and litigation gripped the nation while the world watched. All of these events culminated in a complex display of cultural dynamics that influence contemporary consumer attitudes and behavior. In our 2020 ThinkNow Year-End Report, we examine the effects of these influences through a multicultural lens to provide actionable insights on key consumer trends to watch heading into 2021.
In what seems like a lifetime ago, we began the year full of ambition and resolve because 2020 represented more than a flip of the calendar. In pun worthy comparison, 2020 or “20/20” was supposed to be the year of great vision and clarity. We energized our sales teams with it and redirected our strategic plans. But now, just a month away from year-end, we realize that the clarity we sought didn’t elude us. We clashed with it violently in the streets and on the front lines. The past few months have been some of the most polarizing in recent history. A global pandemic decimated the economy, and the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd sparked a worldwide outcry for social justice.
For many of us, our ideals and attitudes about who we are as individuals are shaped by our heritage and cultural experiences. As consumers, our affinity for certain brands pass through these filters resulting in purchase behaviors that tie back to our beliefs and how we see ourselves. Among multicultural audiences, this presents a unique challenge for marketers. There is no one size fits all solution to gaining buy-in from this diverse group. U.S. Hispanics hail from over 20 countries of origin, and Asian Americans, 40 countries. Understanding the importance of identity to multicultural audiences is essential to mitigating cultural bias in your marketing campaign strategy and delivering culturally relevant advertising.
America is often described as a “melting pot” of different nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures. Much to the dismay of Teddy Roosevelt (who in a 1916 speech noted “There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism”), Americans have perfected naming each ethnic group within our borders distinctly, and those names have evolved. For example, we dove into the names by which Hispanics prefer to identify. Responses ranged from “Latino/Latina” to country of origin, to the hotly debated yet emerging term “Latinx.” We see a similar pattern among Black Americans, who do not identify with labels such as “African American” despite its use in the U.S. Census, media, and other databases.
From grocery stores to airline flights, America’s debate over wearing face masks is playing out on small and large screens globally. What was once seen as a medical imperative has become politicized. Some see mask mandates as an infringement on their constitutional rights, and others, a patriotic duty. According to our research, however, most Americans have this collective request, “wear a damn mask.” ThinkNow conducted a nationwide online survey among American adults ages 18 to 64 to get their perspective on COVID-19 and wearing face coverings.
Despite thousands of shuttered stores across the country earlier this year and varying degrees of re-openings as restrictions ease, the beauty industry has proven resilient. While sales have declined, they have not bottomed out like many other industries. However, the loss of in-person experiences has fundamentally changed the dynamic of how beauty brands engage consumers. In our ThinkNow Cosmetics & Beauty Report™, we surveyed a representative sample of cosmetic/beauty buyers to gauge sentiment in the category and how COVID-19 has impacted purchase behavior. Through our research, we’ve found that the decrease in sales has not depressed consumers’ love of beauty products, but it has changed how they buy them.
Multicultural minority groups collectively comprise one-third of the US population. Hispanic and Latino Americans have contributed to this significant demographic shift in the United States. Currently, more than 59 million Hispanics live in the United States. That massive growth is attributed to high rates of immigration and fertility. However, COVID-19 and the associated impact on the global economy and the daily lives of US consumers is still playing itself out. With the speed at which consumer behaviors and environments are changing, companies and brands must be proactive in their preparation for the “new normal.”
Hispanic voter turnout has historically been lower than that of non-Hispanic Whites and African Americans. The reasons for this vary from the relative youth of U.S. Hispanics and inconsistent outreach by political parties to a belief among many Latinos that their votes don’t matter. The COVID-19 crisis, however, may be the catalyst that drives change. Hispanics are being affected by COVID-19 disproportionally, both in terms of infections and loss of income. Upheavals of this magnitude are often followed by increased political activism. The Tea Party movement, for example, was launched by the Great Recession while FDR’s New Deal was born from the Great Depression.