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Mergers and Acquisitions, Key Themes at SampleCon 2022

SampleCon 2022 was hosted at the elegant Langham Hotel in Pasadena, California. This year’s conference seemed like a return to normalcy. People from over 25 countries could attend without restrictions for the first time in two years. COVID was not mentioned, and everyone was in the mood to socialize and talk shop. As in previous years, a couple of recurring themes was the topic of many conversations and sessions, including data quality, the talent pipeline, and online sample consolidation. However, if SampleCon 2022 had to be summarized in one word, it would be acquisitions. But let’s start this conference re-cap with a familiar pain point – fraud.

Data Quality – Online Sample's Kryptonite

Despite technological innovations to reduce fraud, data integrity remains a concern within the sample industry. This year has been the worst on record for data quality issues, or so it seems. A consensus emerged during the conference that the industry does not have the proper data collection metrics, which is true in some ways. It is also possible to argue that data quality issues result from a lack of uniform industry guidelines.

Online sample companies have their own fraud metrics that don’t always align with other providers. Fortunately, the industry is innovative, and companies like Research Defender license software solutions to mitigate the risk of fraud. However, if there aren’t centralized best practices on how to eliminate fraud from sample, the industry is still vulnerable to attacks, which can have an impact on providers, panelists, and ultimately clients.

Talent Pipeline – Universal Shortage

As with many industries, the Great Resignation still impacts the online sample industry. The pool of qualified candidates is shrinking, and companies are competing for the same candidates. During the conference, many conversations were held around the water cooler and most agree that resolving the talent shortage long-term will require an intentional effort to get more college students interested in data science. But that doesn’t solve the immediate need, which is a good segue to another force moving on the online sample industry – consolidation.

Acquisitions have accelerated in recent years. Larger market research firms are acquiring smaller ones, resulting in layoffs in some instances. Sample companies needing talent may be able to offer job opportunities to these job seekers, and since they have insights experience, there’s a shorter learning curve.

The Great Consolidation – Mergers & Acquisitions

The market research industry has recently experienced a lot of flux. Kantar acquired Qmee and Schlesinger, who acquired 20|20 Research in 2020, and most recently, Addison Research, announced another acquisition during the conference. Dynata acquired Branded Research, and the list goes on and on. The consolidation of these market research firms also impacts online panel companies. Will Dynata remove Branded Research from the Lucid (acquired by Cint) exchange? That remains to be seen, and is a question many will ask of similar scenarios. Online panels require a massive investment in technology and implementation. A panel can dry out if not maintained, so the infrastructure must be there.

Nonetheless, there is plenty of opportunity for new online sample providers because they can establish community databases, a skill that large companies are not as well-versed in. So it will be interesting to see how everything plays out. Stay tuned!

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Hispanics Aren’t Prepared for Retirement

Savings and Investment Lag but Appetite for Financial Knowledge Exists

Social Security is not enough. Anyone currently living on a monthly Social Security check can attest to that. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t fully grasp that reality until they reach retirement age. This problem is even more pronounced in the Hispanic community, which lags other groups in retirement savings. ThinkNow recently conducted research for the Hispanic Marketing Council’s 2022 Virtual Summit on Hispanic attitudes towards saving and investing and found key areas of concern and opportunities where the public sector and financial services companies can step in to help.

Optimism Can Be a Liability

Hispanics are very optimistic, and this serves them well in most cases. But retirement savings is not one of them. Many Hispanics believe their family will be able to support them in retirement. They are the least likely group to say that being a burden on their family is a primary reason for retirement savings. This reliance on family support may contribute to a lower prioritization of retirement savings accounts. In fact, our research found that Hispanics were less likely to have all types of savings accounts than non-Hispanics and are 44% less likely to have an IRA than non-Hispanics.

Another factor influencing lower savings rates among Hispanics is the financial strain of living expenses. Younger Hispanics are also saddled with higher levels of student debt than non-Hispanic White or Asian American students.

There’s a Thirst for Financial Knowledge

The financial strain Hispanics are under is real, but there is reason to hope. Hispanics are more likely to seek out financial information than other groups. They especially lean on banks and online sources such as YouTube.

Banks are uniquely positioned to help since they’re the source Hispanics look most to for financial guidance. The FDIC developed the Money Smart program to help teach financial literacy, and some banks have trained their staff to share this information with their clients. Savvy financial institutions realize that helping their customers build wealth is also good for business.

Another key finding in our study was that Hispanics are interested in investing if given the opportunity. While only 10% have individual stock trading accounts, 35% would choose stocks when asked to allocate $1,000 across various investment options. Some stock trading services such as Robinhood and SoFi have attracted Hispanic and Black traders, but the jury is still out as to whether the platforms' short-term trading is leading to long-term wealth building.

Crypto is Popular but Risky

Ownership of digital assets like cryptocurrency and NFTs were the only area where Hispanics over-indexed other groups. Age is the primary driver. Digital assets are more commonly held by younger individuals, and Hispanics are, on average, ten years younger than the overall U.S. population.

Cryptocurrencies are more volatile than other forms of investment. Their value as long-term assets is unproven, so reliance on this type of investment for Hispanics may prove problematic.

What the Future Holds

California recently implemented mandatory retirement savings accounts for all businesses with five or more employees. Businesses that don’t have a retirement savings account in place must have one by June 30th, 2022 or enroll their employees into a new State plan called CalSavers and deposit 5% of their pay into an IRA. What’s nice about CalSavers is that employees opt into the program unless they specifically opt-out. Unlike a 401K, which is employer-based, CalSavers IRAs will follow workers when they change jobs, so there’s no need to transfer the funds when that happens. This is a positive development because California has the country's largest population of Hispanics, so the likelihood that we’ll see an increase in Hispanic retirement accounts is high.

Student loan forgiveness would also disproportionately help Hispanics. The Biden Administration appears ready to enact some form of loan forgiveness by executive action. Reducing the burden of student loan repayment will open up funds for young Hispanics to be able to start funding their retirements.

The future of the U.S. is multicultural. One hundred percent of the population growth recorded in the 2020 Census came from multicultural Americans, and Hispanics are the largest segment of the multicultural market. Providing the financial literacy education they desire and improving their ability to save will increase the chances that they’ll be able to retire successfully, which pays dividends for them as a group and for the country as a whole.

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Diversity In Market Research, Attracting the Next Gen

Attracting young, diverse talent to the market research industry is essential to its longevity. But this task has proven difficult to date, and it may be a matter of timing. Engaging younger generations in college could lead to greater interest in careers in insights. But that requires intentionality on the part of research companies.

Engagement is just half of the story, however. America’s youth are increasingly diverse. Gen Z is the first majority-minority generation. As they come of age and enter the workforce, they look to work for organizations that prioritize diversity and inclusion. Recent findings show that 68% of Gen Z define diversity and inclusion as racial equality, followed closely by gender equality at 67%, with differently-abled equality rounding out the top three, at 48%. Among Millennials, 69% define diversity and inclusion as racial equality, but fewer define it as gender equality (58%). Differently-abled equality and LGBTQIA equality are tied for third.

Why is this important? If the market research industry hopes to attract younger generations, it must adopt a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Young multicultural adults must see themselves reflected in leadership, so they have something to aspire to. Ultimately, the industry's culture must support diversity and inclusion in principle and practice by creating equitable and inclusive workspaces were people from all backgrounds have a sense of belonging.

In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Misty Wilson, Director of Marketing at Greenbook, shares perspectives from her journey as a woman of color in market research and what the industry needs to do to attract diverse talent.

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Yo no juego fútbol: Latino LGBTQIA Consumers Are So Much More

Growing up as an Ecuadorian American, I felt that people heavily associated Latinos with soccer so much that it seemed synonymous. While I’m not a sports fan, I think it’s important to point out that Latinos are multifaceted, enjoying many sports and pursuing various interests. While we can have this discussion about Hispanics in general, in honor of Pride Month, we’ll take a deep dive into LGBTQIA Latinx sports enthusiasts who are not soccer aficionados to see what stands out.

In a study of 500+ LGBTQIA Latinx consumers that identified a favorite sport other than soccer, we found:

Demographics: the age range reported the most was between 23 and 38. Of which, 62% of respondents identified as bicultural, and 52% stated having a strong attachment to the US. Furthermore:

  • 16% are currently unemployed
  • 2.5% identify as non-binary
  • 37% identify as bisexual

Media Consumption: 9-1-1 (FOX), Grey's Anatomy (ABC), and The Good Doctor (ABC) were the top three most watched TV shows. No shows from the traditional Spanish language networks made the list. To see how traditional Spanish language networks performed with the majority of bicultural LGBTQIA Latinx sports enthusiasts, we asked which of the following Spanish-language networks have you watched in the past months, if any? About 40% have watched Univision, and less than 40% have watched Telemundo. Brands need to understand where their consumers are consuming media.

Brands: speaking of brands, among LGBTQIA Latinx consumers who aren’t soccer superfans,

  • 35% have consumed Grey Goose in the last six months
  • 17% go out to a casual dining restaurant 2-3x a month
  • 52% have consumed Arizona / Arizona Tea in the last six months

Financial: among this audience, digital current presents a significant opportunity, as:

  • 5% own digital currency as a financial product
  • 19% have invested between $500-$2,500 in cryptocurrency

Yet, 23% don't have a driver's license.

And finally, when asked which of these sports would you consider to be your favorite? Soccer came in fifth place behind basketball, football, and boxing.

My point. US Hispanics are a diverse population influenced by the cultures of their countries of origin and by acculturation to American ways of life. Brands who are successful in audience targeting understand these nuances and use innovative segmentation tools built on rich data to improve targeting criteria and consumer insights.

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Gen Z Demands Diversity & Inclusion, Upvotes Brands That Level Up

America’s youth, the first multicultural majority generation in U.S. history, is growing rapidly, adding over 2.3 million consumers (about twice the population of New Hampshire) to the population each year, making them a significant force to be reckoned with. These "mini-millennials” challenge brands to address societal stereotypes, particularly around gender identity, and use their influence to support or disapprove of brands’ diversity and inclusion efforts.

In our first report on diversity and inclusion last year, we analyzed consumer reactions to companies' public declarations of support for social justice in 2020. In our latest wave of ThinkNow Diversity & Inclusion: Brands and Consumer Purchase Intent, we find differences in perceptions and expectations among key demographic groups compared to last year’s report.

Download the report here:

Diversity & Inclusion Means Racial Equality

As in 2021, most U.S. consumers equate diversity and inclusion with ‘racial equality.’ Among LGBTQIA consumers, however, 70% consider ‘LGBTQIA equality’ a stronger representation of D&I. Youth are more likely to see ‘gender equality’ as an example of diversity and inclusion.

Multicultural Consumers Support Inclusive Brands

African American and Hispanic respondents are the most likely to support a company that makes a public commitment to diversity and inclusion initiatives, which differs significantly from non-Hispanic Whites. This metric has held steady over the past twelve months as black and brown audiences, galvanized by the events of 2020, seek out brands that “understand the assignment.”

Consumers who support inclusive brands do so in various ways, but the extent to which they do it has shifted. Overall, we’ve seen a slip in the percentage of consumers willing to share their support on social media. The polarity of the platforms is likely driving this drop. However, there’s been an increase in those willing to spend more money at these stores or go out of their way to shop there – even if they’ve never done so in the past.

We did see a dip in the percentage of consumers willing to break up with their favorite brands if they don’t step up.

At the micro-level, non-Hispanic Whites are more likely to say that they would share their support on social media. Compared to a year ago, fewer Hispanics would share on social media, but more would go out of their way to support a store they had never frequented.

The number of African Americans willing to spend more money at a store that publicly supports diversity and inclusion significantly increased from 2021 to 2022. In 2022, this segment is more likely than other segments to be willing to spend at least 50% more at these stores.

While Millennials have become less likely to spend at least 50% more at stores that show a commitment to diversity and inclusion, Gen Z, on the other hand, has become more likely.

It Just Makes Cents

While it may not be making headlines or spilling out into the streets, consumer expectations for more diverse and inclusive brands are holding steady, driven by America’s youth. From race to ability, sexual orientation to gender, consumers want to see themselves represented authentically and sincerely by companies and brands.

A brand’s ability to do that impacts consumer sentiment and purchase behavior. Brands unwilling to step up run the risk of alienating consumer groups and the spending power at their disposal.

To see additional insights, download the 2022 ThinkNow Diversity & Inclusion: Brands and Consumer Purchase Intent Report today.

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Multi-Hyphenated Creator Economy Disrupts Influencer Marketing 1.0

From Coachella to Taco Bell, creators are monetizing their crafts to bridge the gap between consumers and brands. Powered by social platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitch, the influencer market for branded and platform deals is projected to reach $28 billion by 2026. And the models keep changing. Hashtag sponsored posts – influencer marketing 1.0 - represents where we’ve been. Brands are now leveraging the creator economy in new ways, paying them for their insights into what’s trending and developing that content to post to the brands’ platforms instead of the influencers’ news feeds.

Equity partnerships have also increased. Multi-hyphenated creators, many of whom are athletes, entertainers, or personalities, are being approached by brands to become ambassadors for their products in exchange for equity in the companies, e.g., 50 Cent and Vitamin Water and P. Diddy and Ciroc Vodka.

Other creators have expanded even further, like The Kardashians, Rhianna, and LeBron James, who have gone way beyond being Insta-famous or making music or moves on the court to launching media empires that are challenging conventions. The next frontier, the metaverse.

Donnelle Branche, Talent Manager at Digital Brand Architects, joins us on The New Mainstream podcast to discuss the evolution of influencer marketing and how multi-hyphenated creators are changing the game.

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The Impact of Hispanic Representation on the Travel Industry

A decade ago, the Hispanic travel market was a niche, and many marketing agencies considered it too small to devote time and resources to. Fast forward to the present, and agencies are now eager to tap into the trillion-dollar market, and for a good reason. Research shows that Hispanics travel more across all income levels, especially among affluent Hispanics with household incomes of $80K+. They tend to spend more while traveling and travel with larger parties.

In 2019, Hispanics spent $113.9 billion on domestic leisure travel, accounting for 13% of all domestic leisure travel that year. But the travel industry is still leaving money on the table and could benefit from making a few tweaks in its outreach to Hispanics and other underrepresented groups.

Hispanic Travel Habits

As with all underrepresented groups, Hispanics want to feel seen and heard by the travel industry, from advertising to bookings. This starts with a deep understanding of Hispanics and how identity, language, culture, and other factors impact their behavior, motivations, and purchase decisions. Hispanics are poised to become 30% of the U.S. population by 2050 and are rapidly joining the middle class, making connecting with them a top priority.

Essential to building relationships with Hispanics is addressing stereotypes and false assumptions. Click To Tweet As mentioned earlier, Hispanics are becoming increasingly affluent. It’s often said that if they were an independent country, they’d have the world’s seventh-largest economy. U.S. Hispanic travelers spend more money and travel more than the non-Hispanic U.S. population. To be exact, 31% of U.S. Hispanics travel internationally compared to 18% of non-Hispanics. Texas, California, and Florida are their top three domestic destinations.

An affluent Hispanic traveler spends an average of $6,000 per trip, about 30% more than the rest of U.S. travelers, and makes two more trips per year. This will only increase as more U.S. Hispanics enter the middle class.

Hispanic Representation

As immigration slows, language habits among U.S. Hispanics are shifting, which could impact marketing messages. Although many Hispanics speak or are familiar with the Spanish language, they prefer to speak English or only speak English, especially younger demographics like Gen Alpha, Gen Z and some Millennials. Neither of these groups like being targeted in Spanish.

Marketers need to deliver cultural relevance. Click To Tweet Hispanics want to be represented in American society, not reduced to cheezy Spanish language commercials that skew more toward parody than fact. Hispanic representation requires cultural research, which dives into the nuances of this audience, and creatively uses language to communicate culture.

Finding the Balance

Hispanics are shaking up the travel industry, and wielding their influence to change the narrative of Hispanic travelers. Travel brands, including those in hospitality, entertainment and dining, and destination management, must work to ensure Hispanics feel that their culture is seen and welcomed in those spaces and thoughtfully integrated into all aspects of it. The company that can find the right balance in marketing to Hispanics will tap into a massive revenue opportunity.

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