Given how large the millennial generation is, more and more companies these days are keen on creating a collective millennial marketing strategy.
However, there have recently been a number of articles published in an effort to dismantle the notion of generational norms. In some way or another they all argue that commonalities within generations are actually due to factors like life stage and period effects, among other things.
While these arguments are well thought out, clearly articulated and very compelling, we dare to push it even further by diving deep into what we know best… culture.
First, let’s remind ourselves of the definition of the word “generation”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “generation” as “all of the people born and living at about the same time, regarded collectively”.
Now, because the definition itself is very broad, it is a perfectly suitable term to use when talking about demographic trends and actual facts (e.g., the Millennial generation is the most diverse generation to date, etc.). However, it can be misleading if that is the only lens we apply, especially for marketing purposes.
Tapping into Cultural Differences
As it has been well established, this is because there is a whole slew of factors beyond what year you were born that impact who you are and how you react to certain things. One major influence that has yet to be thoroughly discussed, is culture.
Millennials in the U.S. are the most diverse generation with about 44% coming from an ethnic minority, and of that a whopping 24% being Hispanic. With this in mind, we know that traditionally Hispanic culture is set apart from Anglo culture through a series of core values and values systems. Therefore, what this ultimately means is that almost a quarter of the so-called Millennial generation identify with a completely different set of core values than the other three-fourths.
These core values entail everything from traditional gender roles to greater world views and approaches to relationships.
One distinct example of a core difference between Anglo and Hispanic culture are the notions of collectivism and interdependence versus individualism and self-sufficiency. Hispanics tend to be very community-oriented with large extended families and friends they consider to be just as close. Spending a lot of time and sharing resources with their tribe is all too common, and the interdependence within this large group even extends to everyday recommendations, advice and guidance. ‘Anglos’ or Non-Hispanic Whites, on the other hand, tend to be more individualistic in nature and more likely to be self-sufficient, mostly keeping to themselves or to their smaller, close-knit circle.
Minding the Gap
This in itself already reveals that there are different mindsets that exist within the millennial generation. Understanding these nuances will allow for a greater understanding of this elusive group.
Another example can be taken from People en Español’s annual Hispanic Opinion Tracker (HOT), which surveys Millennial Latinas and Non-Hispanic Millennial Females for comparison purposes.
The study reveals that Millennial Latinas are twice as likely to be married and have children than their Non-Hispanic counterparts. In other words, these two groups of women of about the same age tend to be at different life stages, a factor that also greatly influences how they go about their lives – for instance, a mom probably places higher value on work stability and peace of mind so is probably less willing to take risks than someone who is single and child-free. Differences like this can certainly impact everyday decisions, consumption and media habits, so they create the need for more specialized business strategies.
Accounting for Acculturation
Furthermore, even within the Hispanic population differences arise due increasing rates of acculturation. That is to say, while more and more Hispanics in the U.S. are blending Anglo culture with their own ancestral Hispanic culture, they each pick and choose what to keep from their original culture and what to incorporate from the adopted one. This mix is what makes them unique. Therefore, the three main levels of acculturation (i.e., Spanish Dominant, Bicultural and English Dominant) each stake different positions on the cultural value spectrum, and as a result, identify with different core values at varying degrees.
A prominent example of this can be seen in language use. For some Hispanic households, passing down the Spanish language is an important way to partake in their Hispanic culture, and some even see the value of being bilingual in today’s world. On the contrary, there are other Hispanic households that do not share these same views and, for reasons of their own, choose to only utilize the English language. These two different types of Hispanic households also likely consume media in different languages, a detail brands might want to take into consideration when trying to reach and communicate with certain Hispanic consumers.
That said, couldn’t one argue then that over time with increasing rates of acculturation, culture will play less of a role in differentiating generations? To which we respond, not necessarily.
Regardless of acculturation level, Hispanics as a whole continue to face unique challenges in life that shape them. The HOT study also reveals that over 30% of Hispanic millennial working females believe they need to dress more conservatively and style their hair in certain ways in order to be taken seriously and succeed in the workplace – which is roughly 10% more than their non-Hispanic counterparts. This is because these Hispanics feel the need to overcorrect for the prominent “sexy Latina” stereotype portrayed throughout American media, a stereotype that affects all Hispanic women regardless of acculturation level or age. Therefore, because of the ethnic stereotypes that permeate our society, increasing rates of acculturation will likely be no match for the overall impact ethnicity and culture have on individuals.
Consumer Understanding Needs Cultural Understanding
Similar nuances likely exist across other cultures like African American, Asian, Middle Eastern, etc. – since they all have unique sets of core values and value systems. If companies do not take this into consideration in their marketing strategies, they run the risk of missing the mark. In other words, there can potentially be even greater opportunity if companies take the time and effort to truly understand and give nod to the culture(s) that are so deeply rooted in their target audience, for culture says far more about a group of people than the year listed on a birth certificate.