Tuesday, February 24, 2009

We the people of 2050

In a little over 40 years from now, America will be a minority-majority country where non-Hispanic whites are projected to account for 47% of the population. Knowing this now, how can we prepare for the transition to more multicultural marketing? What are we doing now if we know where we need to be in 40 years? Crazy, I know.

I know Hispanic marketing is gaining a lot of traction and agencies are getting recognition for award-winning work for this consumer segment. But what about African-Americans? Shouldn't their lifestyle and culture be recognized with similarly insightful work and attention? Or even Asian-Americans? There is a lot of room to grow with multicultural marketing, interesting that Hispanics are the first ones to receive significant advertising dollars.

Although when you take into account their large families, affinity for socializing, and the fact that they actually like advertising, they're definitely appealing as a target audience. But they're so diverse!
  • 63% are from Mexico
  • 10% are from Puerto Rico
  • 4% from Cuba
  • 3% from the Dominican Republic
  • 3% from El Salvador
  • etc.
Lots of persona profiles to build. Best get to work now.

1 comment:

Michael Molinar said...

Some thoughts:

It’s interesting to see people in the advertising industry (and you’re not the only one) who view the ethnic demographic shift as a kind of “Y2-¿QuĂ©?” event: something that traditional agencies have to stay ahead of to prevent the unavoidable chaos and loss of clients/revenue that is sure to be a result if not adequately prepared. Are agencies really afraid the sky will fall when the ethnic makeup of the people they have fine tuned their message to for so many years are no longer a statistical majority?

As someone who checks the Hispanic/Latino box (but by all means doesn’t speak for everyone), I think there are two fundamental things the ad industry can do to prepare for what’s ahead. The first is to integrate more minorities and their insights into what we now know of as “traditional” advertising. It is my opinion that these huge agency conglomerates can tend to marginalize minority groups by opening up shops that they label “multicultural,” who often produce work that is not at the same level as their “traditional” counterparts because the same amounts of time and effort are not being put into this type of advertising. I can’t tell you how many times it makes me steam to see a multicultural agency put out work that is stereotypical (at times to the point of being offensive) and resorts to pandering to the lowest common denominator. You want better multicultural marketing? Stop being lazy and invest in the resources to make it better. It’s only going to be most of your potential audience soon enough.

The other way for agencies to make a better transition is to understand all aspects of the changing demographic. Considering how large as the Hispanic population is now, in 40 years there will be at least one more generation of Hispanic Americans. Of these, there is going to be even greater diversity than just nationality. Socioeconomic background and education level, for starters, will more than likely look different in 40 years than it does now for the Hispanic population. And this is where advertising must recognize these differences. Last year, I got a chance to speak to Cynthia McFarlane, president of Saatchi & Saatchi Latin America, at the AAF Most Promising Minority Students event. I asked her about why multicultural agencies don’t always recognize that not all Hispanics live in California, the Southwest, New York City and Florida, nor do they all identify with cultural artifacts that are traditionally considered Hispanic, such as the large patriarchal family or even Spanish being spoken. She acknowledged the challenges being faced by multicultural agencies that even among Hispanics their own makeup is changing and that we are entering a world where it’s not about an ethnic group having a defined set of characteristics anymore that advertisers can use to relate to them. I believe that is what is important for advertising agencies to understand - there is more to minorities than just adding a set of exclamation points or a font that looks like kanji characters to something that will make it relevant. As agencies recognize just how diverse their markets are, the easier it will be for them to create a message that will engage them.