If you ask a CMO, "Who is your target consumer?" there's a high probability the answer will be "Millennials or Gen-Zers.”
One of the characteristics that distinguish these demographic cohorts is that these are the most multicultural generations we have ever seen in the United States. It is estimated that almost half of all Gen-Zers and 44% of Millennials are from a multicultural background. Together, these two groups represent nearly 42% of the country's population.
Unfortunately, some marketers are still trying to unravel the consequences of this demographic transformation into a more diverse and multicultural consumer set. Most of them tend to bundle these diverse consumers into a single homogenous group, hoping to grow their businesses while achieving their efficiencies and synergies.
However, these marketers don't realize that by treating these consumers under a single spectrum of behaviors and attitudes, they ignore the importance of culture and the sense of identity they bring with them. And this generalization towards these young consumers creates for marketers a risk of developing ineffective marketing plans with low/no ROI on their initiatives.
But the challenge for CMOs is significant. Firstly, the pressure for budget efficiencies is the norm in most companies. Secondly, it is natural to assume that Hispanic Millennials, Black Millennials, and non-Hispanic white Millennials have a lot in common. After all, they share their status as the first digitally native generation and live through similar life stages as they reach adulthood, including professional aspirations, relationships, jobs, and children.
But multicultural Millennial consumers also have much more nuance and richness for marketers to understand. Within these nuances, significant opportunities for engaging in authentic conversations and differentiation for a brand arise.
For example, Hispanic Millennials differentiate themselves by demonstrating a significant connection with their Latino culture. They are trendsetters who mash up mainstream influences with Hispanic music, food, and culture; they seek to "pay it back" and strive to be agents of change within their neighborhoods and aim to make their family proud.
On the other hand, Black Millennials continue to shape American pop culture while also living a Black cultural renaissance, embracing and celebrating their African roots in new ways. They are experiencing an emergence of successful Black entrepreneurship and the dominance of cultural institutions beyond music.
A recent study commissioned by the Hispanic Marketing Council, a national trade organization of marketing, communications, and media firms with Hispanic expertise, shed some light on this topic, sharing additional data and insight into the similarities and differences between Gen-Zers and Millennials across generations and ethnic backgrounds.
The study conducted 2,418 interviews, plus 54 in-depth qualitative discussions across non-Hispanic white (NHW), non-Hispanic Black (NHB), and Hispanic consumers aged 13-49, plus the parents of kids aged 8-12. It covered a wide range of topics, including cultural and societal issues, identity, politics, brands, technology, and media content, among others.
While reading the study, one thing became apparent. There's a gap that separates young multicultural consumers from their NHW peers of the same generation. Understanding this gap may be essential for marketers to better succeed in the marketplace today and in the years to come.
This gap can be expressed in what some call "the small things," which, in my opinion, are anything but small, as they tend to illustrate a set of core beliefs multicultural families have.
For instance, one of the questions that I loved to read about is the one that covered the attitudes of families towards allowing their kids to have sleepovers at their friends' houses.
Black and Hispanic families have long been reported to be stricter, with broader family definitions and tighter reigns on independence among their children. The data shows this is still the case, and when it comes to Hispanics, the centrality of parents and family has not been loosened with the passing of time.
Among NHW families, 81% of 8 to 12-year-olds are allowed to sleepover at their friends' houses, while only 61% of Hispanic and NHB families do, a 20-point gap. Interestingly enough, the gap is almost identical for the 13 to 17-year-old age group. Furthermore, the study's qualitative part found that virtually all of the Black and Hispanic families' sleepovers were with cousins and other family members, not friends as with the white family's respondents.
Another question from the study was about the percentage of kids that verbally disrespected their parents. While 46% of NHW responded that their kids between the ages of 8-12 had done that before, less than a third (32%) of Hispanic and NHB households responded experiencing verbal disrespect from their kids.
I asked Nancy Tellet, a multicultural research specialist commissioned by the HCM, to lead this research, her most significant learning after concluding the study. This was her take:
“In HMC’s 1st multicultural study a few years ago, the most significant single learning was the sheer power of in-culture digital content in Black and Hispanic lives and the significant amount of time spent in these deep culture environments. In HMC’s 2020 study on 13-17 aged members of America’s 1st multicultural majority generation, the most significant single learning was the sheer power of race and ethnicity in the brands that Hispanics and Blacks choose to embrace or quit. The # 1 reason to quit a brand was racial/ethnic disrespect for their segment or someone else’s, and even a respectful ad adjacent to disrespectful content was enough for 31% of 13-17s to have already quit a brand.”
On the surface, these behaviors may be considered mere curiosities, but underneath, attitudes towards family are heavily influenced by their culture. Unlocking these nuances and understanding how they can shape and influence these families’ behaviors is the role of modern culture marketers living in a diverse and multicultural marketplace.