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.

Cautiously Optimistic & Politically Tense

From impeachment proceedings to the presidential election, emotions at the start of 2020 were high, but unemployment remained low as U.S. consumers braced for a polarizing year in politics. Despite the political sideshow, most Americans were convinced that the economy was stable.

The majority (58%) of Americans believed that the U.S. economy was growing, the highest percentage in five years. Yet nearly half of the Total Market disapproved of the President. Financial and political optimism were highest among U.S. Hispanics, despite a contentious political season.

A Global Health Crisis

By mid-January, optimism quickly faded as news of an unprecedented health crisis dominated global headlines. COVID-19 soon took the world by storm, grinding industry to a halt and confining consumers to their homes. As infection rates soared, markets quickly descended into chaos.

Marketers began adapting by reallocating ad spend to digital platforms and shifting focus to how brands were helping during the crisis. Consumers likewise traded their regular routines for remote work and digital entertainment and increased their demands for visible corporate social responsibility.

Now entering the third wave of the pandemic, data suggests the pandemic is actively reshaping cultural attitudes surrounding healthcare, corporate social responsibility, and crisis management. Targeting the new multicultural mainstream will require enhanced segmentation models that focus on deeper cultural insights and cultural fluency.

WOKE: The Nation Confronts Its Past 

In the summer of 2020, activists and citizens alike took to the streets calling for an end to systemic racism following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of White police officers.

In response, many brands turned to social media to express their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Others scrambled to reposition themselves of champions of racial equality. But younger consumers were quick to call out certain brands for “performative woke washing” – that is, brands who claimed to be progressive but had complicated pasts with race relations.

On a larger scale, the momentum from the protests represents the country’s rapidly changing ethnic demographics. As Gen-Z rises to prominence and multicultural consumers become the majority, brands must step up and provide more inclusive marketing messages that address the nuances of these diverse audiences.

Next Steps

Click to download the full report and see what companies and brands need to do differently in 2021.