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Authenticity Matters: Why Market Research Needs Diversity to Connect with Black Consumers

Black Americans, comprising about 14% of the U.S. population, wield significant economic influence, with buying power surpassing $1.5 trillion. Their cultural impact is equally undeniable, shaping everything from music and fashion to cuisine and beyond. Yet, generally, brands fail to invest in the market research needed to truly understand the complexity of this demographic.

Like most multicultural consumers, Black Americans are not a monolith. Within this group are subcultures that extend far beyond skin tones and hair textures to differences in culture, countries of origin, geography and language.

Beyond demographics are psychographics, right? Traumatic events like George Floyd's death deeply affected many Black consumers, prompting shifts in their brand interactions. Despite these challenges, there's a growing interest among brands in understanding and serving Black consumers, particularly Gen Z. Authenticity emerges as a crucial factor, with Black consumers seeking brands that acknowledge them, invest in their communities and empower them.

However, the lack of diversity within the market research industry remains a glaring issue, jeopardizing efforts to engage this consumer group. The failure to build diverse and inclusive teams hinders authentic insights and decision-making processes, leading to tone-deaf marketing campaigns and underwhelming customer experiences. Brands that genuinely understand what Black consumers like and build real connections with them will discover a vast, hidden market just waiting to be explored.

In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Dawn V. Carr, CEO and Founder of Mahogany Insights, discusses the importance of increasing diversity within the insights industry and how it can lead to more meaningful connections with Black consumers.

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Revealed: The Critical Role of Brand Strategy in Business Success

Whether refreshing an existing brand or launching a new one, the fundamentals remain the same— understanding the "why" behind your brand is critical to its long-term success. While logos and color palettes are often seen as the face of a brand, they are merely identifiers, visual representations of a brand’s ideals. But branding goes deeper than that.

Branding is the culmination of all the experiences, values, and perceptions that define a brand. It's the emotional connection customers feel, the stories they tell about you, and the reasons they choose you over competitors. It's essentially your reputation – what people say about you when you're not around.

But building a strong brand isn't just about how you present yourself to the world. It’s also vital to cultivating internal alignment. Engaging your employees, understanding their needs, and empowering them to live the brand's values are essential to brand sustainability. When employees believe in and embody the brand ethos, they serve as ambassadors of it in the marketplace.

Beyond the customer relationship is the synergy between brand strategy and business strategy. A well-defined brand strategy clarifies your market position, informs your marketing efforts, and shapes a cohesive customer experience at every touchpoint.

In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Darren Horwitz, Founder of TenTen Group, delves into branding basics and the role brand strategy plays in achieving business success. 

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Is Market Research Poised for Sustainable Growth in the AI Era?

Effective market research goes beyond understanding trends to identifying opportunities in the market. But many companies struggle to translate data insights into tangible financial gains. This struggle stems from a tendency to diminish the significance of market research instead of acknowledging its profound potential as a revenue generator. Failing to see the strategic value of research hurts the bottom line and creates distance between the consumer and the brand. Companies need a deep understanding of consumers, and market research is the most effective way to achieve that.

How market research does that is changing, however. Artificial Intelligence is transforming the market research industry. New AI-powered methodologies, like synthetic panels, are creating opportunities for marketers to achieve similar results in less time with fewer budget constraints.

But AI isn't a silver bullet. Though rapidly evolving, the technology is new, and the accuracy of these models is still questionable. These new tools should be seen as complements, not replacements, for proven research methodologies.

One thing is certain – the future of market research lies in effectively integrating data, insights, and human curiosity. By leveraging these elements, researchers can become strategic partners, driving real-world business results and ensuring market research is a true value-add, not just a cost.

In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Michael Nevski, Director of Global Insights at Visa, delves into the vital link between market research and revenue growth and explores the potential of AI to reshape the industry.

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Diverse Teams Can Transform Market Research: Authentic Insights Ahead

Diversity isn't just about optics. Today’s consumers prioritize authenticity and base their purchase decisions on how brands show up. But authenticity does not start when the products hit the shelf. It must be woven into every stage of the go-to-market strategy, including market research – from panel recruitment and survey design to selecting moderators who foster open and honest conversations. Understanding diverse consumer perspectives requires more than just surface-level representation.

One crucial aspect of fostering authenticity in market research is the composition of research teams. Selecting moderators, for example, that reflect the demographics of the survey participants helps ensure authenticity in their responses. The psychological safety that the environment presents reduces the need for codeswitching, liberating respondents to be their authentic selves.

Beyond focus groups, greater diversity is needed across the market research industry. Often, diverse teammates doing the work—running the data tables and visualizing the data—aren’t the ones presenting the work, and that needs to change. There’s value in bringing those in the back of the house to the front to create equal opportunity for advancement. 

By prioritizing inclusivity and authenticity internally, companies can forge deeper connections with consumers externally and drive meaningful change in the marketplace.

In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Kai Fuentes, President and CEO of Ebony Marketing Systems, discusses how the market research industry can benefit from intentionally cultivating and championing diversity and inclusion.

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Bridging Cultures, Elevating Wellness: The Future of Multicultural Marketing

Today's consumers are confidently embracing their authentic identities, and forward-thinking brands are following suit. Inclusive beauty giants like Ulta Beauty proudly defy gender norms, while others prominently feature same-sex couples and individuals with disabilities and promote body positivity in their advertising campaigns. On the flip side, some brands are succumbing to the fear of appearing overly “woke.” The increasing backlash against diversity, equity and inclusion has prompted a few to backtrack on commitments made during the peak of social unrest in 2020, leaving consumers feeling angered and confused.

Multicultural consumers, who represent almost 100% of the population growth in the U.S. and are on track to become the majority by 2050, seek genuine connections with brands. Central to this is a brand's ability to authentically understand its audience and allow that authenticity to drive consumer engagement.

Brands that bridge cultural divides are the ones that thrive. By genuinely connecting cross-culturally, companies seamlessly align DEI with their bottom line. Inclusivity isn't optional – it's the fuel for long-term success. From diverse workforces to inclusive marketing campaigns, a focus on inclusion strengthens every aspect of a brand.

Understanding multicultural consumers means appreciating their commitment to holistic well-being. Black women prioritize mental health, while Gen Z seeks a shift from the “grind” to self-care and mindful living. Brands that tap into these trends resonate with a broader audience.

In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Will Campbell, Co-founder and CEO of Quantasy, shares his perspective on the state of multicultural marketing and how young, diverse generations are driving wellness trends.

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Revolutionizing Sports Fandom: Engaging Young Bilingual Latino Fans

In the dynamic landscape of sports fandom, one demographic stands out for its potential to reshape the future: young bilingual Latino fans. These individuals bring a unique perspective to sports, craving innovative ways to express their passion for the game. But that passion goes beyond the field to the experience, whether tailgating or engaging with brand activations. For brands to truly connect with these fans, they must seek to understand and cater to their needs, redesigning the fan experience to create a more inclusive and engaging community.

But what does that look like? Traditionally, sports fandom has been defined by loyalty to teams and players. But that’s evolving as bilingual Latinos navigate between cultures and languages. Understanding cultural nuances and generational differences within the Latino community can translate into higher ticket sales, greater demand for merchandise, and overall fan engagement for leagues.

Because of this, major sports leagues, such as the NFL and MLB, are increasingly embracing the importance of diverse narratives and communities within their fan base. Aside from drafting Latino players and sponsoring Spanish-language simulcasts, leagues and franchises successful at leveraging Latino fandom understand the elements of their sports entertainment offering that appeal to Latinos and invest in supporting those features.

Tapping into this demographic represents a substantial economic opportunity. With nearly 20% of the US population identifying as Latino and 40% considering themselves avid sports fans, there's immense potential for growth and innovation. However, capturing the attention and loyalty of young bilingual fans requires more than gestures like heritage nights, which can be perceived as performative if not integrated into a broader engagement strategy. Engagement demands a deep understanding of Latinos' cultural backgrounds and preferences and a commitment to authentic representation. Sports leagues must incorporate these insights into their growth strategies, ensuring the fan experience reflects the diverse communities supporting them.

In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Jesus Chavez, co-founder and CEO of CABRA Sports, delves into Latino sports fandom, exploring the strategies and cultural insights driving the industry’s evolution.

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Can the Insights Industry See Itself Clearly?

As Women's History Month approaches each year, the remarkable strides women have made in business become increasingly clear. However, despite these advancements, certain industries, such as the insights industry, continue to struggle with leadership inequities and a lack of workforce diversity.

While the insights industry prides itself on understanding and reflecting diversity in consumer populations, this awareness often stops short within its own workforce. This creates a troubling gap: the voices informing strategies may be representative, but the decision-makers interpreting and implementing those insights remain predominantly homogenous.

This lack of diversity leads to blind spots and missed opportunities, potentially limiting strategy effectiveness and perpetuating biases. Closing the gap between measured and internal diversity unlocks the full potential of insights, creating more opportunities across the board.

In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Ali Henriques, Global Director of Research Services at Qualtrics, delves deeper into leadership diversity and its impact on recruiting and retaining diverse talent.

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