The beauty industry has transformed in recent years driven by consumer demands for products that align with their cultural values and personal beliefs. While the top cosmetic brands continue to be L’Oreal and Estee Lauder, they are being challenged by younger, edgier brands like Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty, Rihanna’s Fenty and e.l.f. Cosmetics. Consumer opinion, however, is not homogeneous. There are significant differences in preferences based on ethnicity, age, income and gender. ThinkNow uncovered some of those differences in our recent Inclusive Beauty Report based on a nationally representative online survey of 2,800 respondents.
Download the full results of the survey here.
The era of conscious consumerism has brought about a major shift in the beauty industry. Increasingly, consumers seek products that align with their values, whether minimizing harm to animals, supporting sustainable practices, or promoting inclusivity. This has led to a growing demand for cosmetics and beauty products that are cruelty-free, meaning they are not tested on animals and that are considered inclusive.
Interestingly, while nearly half of cosmetic consumers want cruelty-free brands, 88% of them are still not cruelty-free. However, the fastest growing brands like e.l.f. and Rare Beauty are both cruelty-free and vegan. Legacy companies that want to compete in today’s market are being pushed to adopt these practices in their formulations and testing processes.
While the market as-a-whole is trending towards conscious consumerism, there are significant multicultural differences. For example, the demand for all-vegan cosmetics appears to be driven by non-Hispanic White consumers.
Additionally, since non-Hispanic Whites are, on average, ten years older than multicultural Americans, 42% of them choose brands based on how they address age-related needs vs. 30% of Hispanics who value age-related needs. Asians value products that offer solutions for different skin tones (37%) vs products that are endorsed by celebrities (15%) while Black and non-Hispanic White consumers are more likely to value brands that have a variety of price points. Understanding and addressing these specific preferences, as supported by cultural consumer insights, is crucial for building a loyal customer base.
One might assume that younger consumers would be most interested in conscious consumerism. Gen Z however, is much less likely to seek out vegan cosmetic brands (19%) than Millennials (33%) or Gen X (31%). Gen X is more likely to seek out organic/natural ingredients (41%) than the 36% average for other age groups.
Income, however, is one of the factors that most affect cosmetic product preferences. For example, those earning more than $80K a year are significantly more likely to choose brands that are cruelty-free (53%) and vegan (42%) than those earning less than $40K annually (39%) and 21%), respectively. This insight-driven approach doesn't just enhance product offerings; it also builds trust and loyalty among diverse consumer groups.
The beauty industry's shift towards cruelty-free, vegan, and inclusive beauty products aligns with trends observed in multicultural consumer insights. Younger generations are the most statistically diverse in history and wield the power to affect change. They are communicating their expectations to brands or starting their own and challenging heteronormative stereotypes of “beauty.” Companies willing to adapt to these culture shifts will stay relevant as consumer tastes change and contribute to a more compassionate and diverse world.
As digital marketing continues to evolve, creating personalized marketing experiences for consumers has become critical to successful marketing strategy. In the past, marketers relied on tools like third-party cookies to personalize the customer journey. But with cookies going away in 2024, it’s more important than ever to collect zero-party data to create those personalized marketing experiences while respecting consumer privacy.
Equally as important, however, is the use of multicultural data. The U.S. is becoming increasingly diverse, with much of that growth driven by young consumers. Using multicultural insights helps to personalize their experiences, thus creating stronger bonds that ultimately improve business outcomes.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, multicultural consumers currently represent approximately 40% of the U.S. population and are projected to account for 55% of population growth over the next five years. Therefore, brands looking to succeed in the U.S. market must understand the needs and preferences of these consumers. It’s important to remember that people change, societies evolve, and cultures shift. Brands that stay attuned to national population trends and behavioral pivots and make efforts to understand the cultural drivers influencing them are in the best position to engage this consumer market successfully.
Personalized marketing experiences are no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a necessity. Consumers today expect to receive messages relevant to their interests and needs, and marketers who fail to deliver such experiences will be left behind. One of the keys to creating personalized marketing experiences is the use of zero-party data. Zero-party data is data that consumers intentionally and proactively share with companies. This type of data is valuable because it provides insights into what consumers want. As third-party tracking tools retire, zero-party data is becoming one of the most sought-after permission-based tools for engaging consumers more effectively.
Zero-party data, however, is just one piece of the puzzle. Another key component of personalized marketing is the use of multicultural data. ThinkNow research shows that multicultural consumers have unique needs and preferences, and understanding these nuances is crucial for creating effective marketing campaigns. For example, diverse cultures may have different values, beliefs, and traditions that can influence their purchasing decisions. By understanding these differences, marketers can tailor their messaging to resonate more strongly with multicultural audiences.
Multicultural data can also help brands avoid cultural missteps that could damage their reputation. ThinkNow research has shown that multicultural consumers are more likely to engage with brands that prioritize diversity and inclusion in their marketing efforts and are willing to stop frequenting a store that does not. From campaign strategy to execution, multicultural data can help brands build a deeper connection with multicultural consumers by helping them market in-culture, avoiding common mistakes that could prove very costly.
To effectively use multicultural data, it's important to ensure that it is collected and analyzed ethically and responsibly. Brands must take care to avoid stereotypes and assumptions when analyzing multicultural data and should work to understand the nuances and complexities of diverse cultures. Additionally, brands should be transparent about their data collection practices and ensure that consumers know how their data is being used.
Using zero-party and multicultural data to personalize marketing experiences has become a business imperative. Multicultural consumers are a diverse and rapidly growing segment of the population, and brands that don't consider their needs and preferences risk alienating a significant portion of their potential customer base. Cookies are on their way out, so the demand for zero-party data will only increase.
By using these types of data in an ethical and responsible manner, brands can create more authentic and meaningful connections with their audiences and drive business success.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion have been at the forefront of public consciousness since 2020. While these tenants were commonly known in academia, awareness among the general public is relatively new. Many companies and brands, in particular, are now grappling with balancing consumer expectations for DEI and navigating their learning curve.
DEI doesn't exist in a silo, however. It's not a department or a destination – it's a journey that winds through every aspect of an organization. It takes the total commitment of executive leadership for DEI to permeate an organization's culture and show up in its practices, from hiring diverse talent to launching inclusive marketing campaigns. This is particularly pertinent for firms interested in multicultural marketing. Firms with little to no representation of diverse professionals will find it challenging to attract multicultural consumers, and these firms may also find it harder to attract qualified candidates. Like consumers, job seekers want to work for an organization that shares their values, especially Millennials and Gen Zers, who comprise a large percentage of today's talent pool.
In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Dominique Dickson, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager at Heidrick & Struggles, explains why executive buy-in is crucial for building an inclusive workplace culture, attracting diverse candidates, and achieving better business outcomes.
About Our Guest:
Dominique Dickson is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager at renowned executive search and leadership consulting firm, Heidrick & Struggles. She began her career there in 2016 as a member of the Global CEO & Board practice that manages recruitment of the world's top leaders across a wide range of industries. Dominique was promoted to the internal DE&I function at the firm in 2021. Prior to joining Heidrick, she held various corporate operations, communications, executive support and project management positions in the legal, asset management and business consulting industries.
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.