I have promised myself, many times, to one day run a marathon. I always start with the best intentions. I get all excited and plan an aggressive training regimen, and then my momentum, for no apparent reason, begins to fade away over the course of time.
Tossing in the towel on a personal challenge is one thing, but in the context of smart business, running out of stamina and fuel is not an option in today's marketplace if your goal is to finish strong. This is especially true in midst of today's volatile social and political dynamics, when race and diversity are talked about as they are misunderstood. So why are so many brands falling short and letting their guards down when it comes to marketing to multicultural consumers? Maybe it's much like my grand plans to one day finish that marathon; they've also become victims of enthusiasm erosion.
I'm sure it happens to the best of us. We start out strong, right out of the gate, and then our enthusiasm slowly erodes to the point of non-existence. But why do brands, that would seem to be well-oiled and sophisticated marketing machines, often fall into this dismal cycle of abraded enthusiasm? It makes little sense that organizations, whose sole purpose is to guarantee profitable sustainability, would let their guards down, losing steam over time. This often occurs even with the best efforts to thoroughly and deeply understand how to market to the fastest, most promising segments in the consumer landscape. Unfortunately, it happens much more often than we think.
At C+R, we have been pioneers and strong proponents of inclusion and diversity in our research studies for many years. It is no coincidence that our LatinoEyes and CultureBeat divisions are entirely devoted to helping companies get an authentic and thorough understanding of multicultural consumers. Given our unique vantage point, we see this scenario all too often, where marketers seem to lose sight of their ultimate goal. It tends to unfold something like this: a new census report comes out that officially states the size of the multicultural populations (African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, Middle Easterners, etc.) in the US. Then, the marketing engines and top management take quick notice of the potential these populations represent. They begin to build momentum around it, investing in consumer research, advertising, designing multicultural marketing strategies, etc. They start dipping their toes into the waters of multicultural marketing but after a few years go by, the initial excitement fizzles out. The impetus is gone. Eventually, marketers seem to forget altogether the importance of multiculturals as devoted loyalists and purchasers of their products.
"Yes, we did some research but it was a long time ago, about a couple of years back" or "We had a very good campaign, it worked really well, and management was on board... but I'm not sure if we're doing anything with multiculturals at this time." These are responses that we typically get when our clients reflect on their recent investments. And believe it or not, we continue to hear, "We've never done anything on that segment.".
Like the marathon runner who failed to properly prepare for the long-distance haul, brands often train more for the shorter sprint. Multicultural marketing is a feat that takes a marathon commitment. Wise marketers keep their eyes on the prize for the long run, while continuously staying in touch with their consumers. For them, it's not just about reading reports and articles relating to these consumers. It's more about getting to know them deeply and sometimes personally through research or consumer immersions. They know that for brands to succeed in the long term, it's essential to have a genuine passion for truly understanding what multiculturalism means to all consumers. Whether it be white, brown, multiracial, LGBTQ, male, female, or Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Anglo or African-American, deep understanding of consumers can really serve to elevate brands and to establish a long-lasting, authentic connection with them.
Have you found yourself or your team running into this wall? Do you ever feel like your initial enthusiasm and support in your organization are fizzling out? Well trust that you're not alone here. Don't despair! You can still be a champion of multiculturalism and be that cool and savvy person who simply gets it. You can be that leader in your company who can speak to how establishing a true connection with multiculturals can bolster your brand's prominence and, in turn, increase your revenue. The next time your team discusses marketing strategy, here are a few facts to keep in your back pocket and pull out whenever you need to be that multicultural expert in the room:
- Multiculturals are here to stay, and they're growing fast and furious. In June 2017, the Census Bureau released new data revealing that our country's Latinos now amount to 57.5 million people. This is a two percent increase between July 2015 and July 2016 alone! Asians on the other hand, add up to 21.4 million (a 3 percent jump).
- They have money. Lots of it. In June 28, BuzzFeed picked up on a story about the importance of the economic power of Latinos in the U.S. It cited a report by the Latino Donor Collaborative, asserting that "the economic output of roughly 55 million Latinos in the U.S. would form the seventh-largest economy in the world, with a GDP of $2.1 trillion in 2015." That's a lot of money to be left on the table! What's more, according to the same source, "If Latinos were a US state, they would have the second-largest economy" with California being the only state ahead of them. Similarly, African-American buying power is projected to reach $1.2 trillion this year and $1.4 trillion by 2020. These figures are based on a recent report from the University of Georgia's Selig Center for Economic Growth. This reflects an increase of approximately 275% since 1990, when it was just $320 billion.
- Diversity pays off, inside and outside of your companies. Consulting giant McKinsey reported findings from one of their 2015 studies (Diversity Matters) stating, among other findings, that "Companies in the top quartile of racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians."
- The U.S. (and the world) is a blend of colors and cultures. In early June 2017, The Pew Research Center reported a rather conspicuous finding regarding racial and cultural integration: 1 in 7 U.S. infants was multiracial or multiethnic in 2015; that's almost three times as many as there were in 1980. Not enough? Get this! According to the same report, in 1980, 7% of all newlyweds were in an inter-racial marriage, and by 2015, that figure had grown more than two-fold, up to 17%.
- Despite the noticeably tense political discourse, America is embracing this change. The same Pew Report reveals that in general, the public is "more accepting of the trend toward children having parents of different races." In one survey they conducted, 22% of adults responded by saying that having more children with parents of different races is a good thing for our society. Although half as many reported having said the opposite (yes, there is still some dissent and opposition, but how boring would it be if everyone agreed?).
So, given this collection of facts, you must ask yourself: Why not invest more in understanding and connecting with these consumers? Don't throw in the towel and quit now! Finish that marathon that you've been dreaming about and training for!
And most importantly, don't underestimate the very real need to fully understand how consumers feel about pivotal events like the Charlottesville tragedy and ensuing ripple effect on corporate America and its brands.