Culture and Multicultural Identity: Names Matter

August 11, 2022 Author: ThinkNow

Keeping pace with culture can be challenging for brands. Consumer dynamics are evolving and becoming increasingly fluid, particularly around identity. Several factors influence how consumers see themselves and shape their attitudes, behaviors, preferences, and biases, including their heritage and culture. Through this lens, consumers make purchase decisions and establish brand affinities, requiring companies to develop a better understanding of the complexity of identity.

Multicultural consumers are often motivated by a desire to represent their culture in how they identify their race and ethnicity. In 2020, ThinkNow conducted a nationwide online survey among Hispanics, African Americans, and Asian Americans ages 18 to 64 to understand how they prefer to identify themselves among peers and in marketing and media. This year, we conducted a follow-up study in which we found that the needle hadn’t moved much, with a few exceptions.

Download the report here.

Naming Preferences: Hispanics

In 2020, we found that the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino/Latina” were preferred by the majority of U.S. Latinos across different scenarios, in particular, when they or others (i.e., media, companies) referred to this population as a whole. That consensus holds in 2022, with the majority of Hispanics preferring the term “Hispanic” when used in most contexts, followed by “Latino(a).”

There was a noticeable shift in sentiment when respondents were asked about naming preferences “when describing yourself in a professional setting (job, interview, etc.).” In 2020, 36% preferred Hispanic and 26% preferred Latino(a). In 2022, 43% of Hispanics preferred “Hispanic” (increase), and 20% preferred “Latino(a),” a six-point decrease.

Interestingly, there is a five-point decrease in the use of the term “Latino(a)” when respondents were asked naming preferences “to use when describing or naming all people of Spanish or Latin American heritage in the U.S.,” from 30% to 25%.

Consistent with data reported in 2020, the term “Latinx” continues to exist in the margins. However, 3 out of 5 Hispanic adults have heard of the term, but it has yet to achieve broad adoption except among younger generations.

Naming Preferences: African Americans

Among African Americans, we saw naming preferences become more nuanced. In 2020, 49% of African Americans preferred media, companies, and brands to refer to them as “African American,” and 33% said “Black,” accounting for 82% of respondents. This year, only 37% of African Americans prefer that companies, brands, and the media use the term “African American,” followed by “Black” (23%) and “Black American” (22%). While the total percentage of respondents is the same here, we saw an additional preference emerge not accounted for in 2020. While commonly used, the term “people of color” is not preferred in most cases.

Naming Preferences: Asian Americans

Among Asian Americans in 2020, when asked about naming preferences “for the media/companies/brands to use when describing/naming,” 8% of respondents stated “My Country of Origin + American.” But in 2022, 14% held that preference. Very few Asian Americans prefer to solely be called “American.”

Multicultural Identity

Across the three cohorts, the term “American” was among the least favored naming preferences indicating a desire among multicultural consumers to connect with their heritage. The onus is on media, companies, and brands to research to uncover cultural drivers underpinning multicultural identity and how these factors affect consumption habits.

Download the report here.