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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Latino immigrants once feared that practicing their native cultures would make them seem "less American" and thus less accepted, so they tried to acculturate to American ways of life quickly. Fortunately, most Latinos have evolved in how they see themselves. They embrace the concept of the "the 200%" (100% Latino and 100% American) and the ability to be ones authentic self without abandoning who they are. Language has been one of the biggest indicators of that. In the past, immigrant parents may have insisted that everyone in the household speak only English and stifle their native tongue.
But today, bicultural bilingual households across the U.S. are thriving, primarily driven by younger generations who refuse to conform or apologize for their lineage. Gen Z is the first multicultural majority generation, and Latinos have the highest rate of interracial marriage.
So how should marketers engage this demographic? Connecting with the new mainstream requires understanding the dynamics they navigate daily, taking into account their cultural lens, contextual environments, and behavior. To do that, they must be invited to the conversations and a part of the decisions being made. By relying on people with these experiences, you can assess the authenticity of your marketing efforts and decrease the chance of missing the mark.
In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Vanessa Vigil, General Manager, mitú, distills the notion of "the 200%" and why it's important for marketers to dive deeper into multicultural consumer insights.
Multicultural marketing is finally being embraced as a necessity, not a nice-to-have. Marketers have traditionally been interested in marketing to diverse audiences around the release of Census data when they realized the changing demographics of American consumers.
That’s changed within the last two years. Consumers have been more vocal, taking brands to task for cultural insensitivity and stereotypical themes. In response, there has been a more consistent focus on multicultural.
That focus extends beyond just reaching consumers to engaging minority-owned companies, particularly media companies. It's unlikely that a brand can fully engage a diverse group if they are not supporting companies within that group. For example, it would be beneficial for a brand targeting Black consumers to work with a Black-owned media company with access to Black consumers. Understanding that many minority-owned firms may be smaller and unable to deliver the reach necessary makes collaborating with larger firms essential, opening the door for robust supplier diversity programs.
But it’s important to note that building relationships with diverse audiences is a long game. Loyalty comes over time and engaging multicultural audiences thoughtfully and respectfully builds goodwill. Consumers want brand allies who care about what they value and stand in solidarity with them, not brands that just see them as dollar signs.
Tune in to this episode of The New Mainstream podcast where Marina Filippelli, CEO of Orci, discusses the importance of brand allies to building consumer loyalty and why partnering with minority-owned media companies matters.
Marina drives both business strategy and day-to-day operations for multicultural initiatives at Orci, working closely with her team to deliver engaging, effective campaigns that help global brands like Honda, Acura, Dole, VCA, Anheuser Busch, Chevron and ExtraMile build meaningful relationships with diverse targets in the U.S. and Latin America.
With roots in Mexico and Argentina, she has been passionate about communicating with the Latinx community since she first launched her career at Orci, ultimately returning after leading the multicultural division of Heat and client teams at Zubi Advertising and Conexión.
For someone who has been working in multicultural marketing for almost two decades, the past few years have been transformative. Diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) and representation in public and private organizations are works in progress. But the momentum is stronger than it’s ever been. The entrepreneur and somewhat skeptic in me, however, wonders if this is just a phase. Will corporate America move on to the next big thing? There are already murmurs that ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) will be the new focus as DEI demand wanes.
Then I think of Gen Z, the post-millennial cohort which precedes Generation Alpha, born between the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2010s. These forward-thinking digital natives have turned our society’s perspective on identity upside down. As such, I am confident that the principles of diversity and inclusion will remain and evolve in the future, creating a true sense of belonging for everyone.
Gen Z is the first minority-majority generation (if they are the majority, why do we use “minority”? That’s another blog post ...), so it makes sense that their views on diversity and inclusion will be markedly different from past generations. One example illustrated by a Pew Research study shows that 62% of Gen Zers see increased diversity as good for society.
Their views on diversity extend to the companies they show support for through their purchases. A study conducted by Quantilope reports that of 630 Americans surveyed, nearly 80% of Gen Zers said that it’s important for brands to address diversity and inclusion. And their demands go beyond representation and DEI efforts to what is perhaps the most significant catalyst for sustainable change within organizations: corporate leadership. The same survey shows that more than half (53%) of Gen Zers want to see more diversity in senior leadership.
Race and ethnicity are not the only factors defining Gen Z’s view of diversity. Their opinions on gender are reshaping societal norms, too. According to Pew Research, Gen Z is by far the most likely to say forms or online profiles should include more than the standard binary options of “man” or “woman.”
This young demographic also embraces concepts like neurodiversity and advocates for greater accessibility for the disabled. In a recent article, Forbes contributor and neurodiversity expert Nancy Doyle writes: “For many Gen-Z people, ethics, equity, diversity and inclusion are their motivation and their calling. Workplaces sticking to rigid definitions, mining identity politics for skills that can be exploited without embracing intersectional diversity are going to gain a bad reputation, losing talent.”
This sentiment is echoed in my agency’s diversity and inclusion study, where 54% of Gen Z indicated that D&I should be inclusive of disabled equality. That’s higher than all other groups, with millennials at 45%, Gen X at 48% and boomers at 39%.
So, will corporate America eventually tire of doing the hard work it takes to create more diverse and inclusive cultures, products and services? It is likely. But will Gen Z allow them to pull back their investments? The data says “not a chance.” Gen Z is bold and vocal, and this generation has only known diversity and will demand it with their dollars and their actions.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.
2020 was a year of highs and lows. For marketers who have always maintained a commitment to diversity and inclusion, the calls for social justice strengthened their resolve. For many others, however, the momentum of acknowledging the problem gave way to frantic, reactive statements that quickly fizzled out or failed. A year later, companies realized their approach to diversity and inclusion couldn’t be summed up in a social media post. (more…)
Corporate spend on multicultural marketing is expected to grow in 2022. Some of that budget is likely motivated by a long overdue cultural reconning with racial injustice, and some of it boils down to simple demographic realities. The 2020 Census revealed that the non-Hispanic White population shrank in real numbers for the first time in U.S. history. Minorities accounted for all the population growth over the past decade. Our consumer economy is becoming ever more reliant on multicultural spend, and those consumers expect to see themselves reflected in the media. (more…)
After college, Marissa Nance headed to New York City with just enough cash to cover a month of expenses and more than enough talent to land a job at one of the largest advertising agencies in the world.
Fast forward a few years, this pioneering media expert, fearless marketing executive, and groundbreaking content producer with credits like "Survivor," "Top Chef," and "The Biggest Loser" to her name, launched Native Tongue Communications (NTC), the first and only minority-and-female-certified media agency in the U.S. committed to bringing to life innovative, thought-provoking and culturally relevant ideas that authentically connect brands to diverse and growing populations. (more…)