According to the U.S. Census Bureau, minorities constitute 51% of the U.S. population. Together, this demographic is no longer a minority and presents viable opportunities for companies to attain new consumers for their products. The buying power of minority (i.e. ethnic) consumers has endured the recession. As examples, (1) the nation’s Black buying power will continue to rise exponentially — $316 billion in 1990 to $600 billion in 2000, to $947 billion in 2010–to $1,038 billion in 2012, and a projected $1,307 billion in 2017 1; (2) Americans of Asian ancestry, representing the third largest minority group, has achieved a 165% gain in buying power between 2000 and 2012 and will reach $1 trillion in 2017 2 and (3) Hispanic buying power is worth $1 trillion now and is expected to grow another 50 percent to $1.5 trillion in the next five years3. Companies that ignore minority consumers will be playing “catch up” to companies that are paying attention to this growing phenomenon. If companies plan to communicate to ethnic consumers, the following topics are essential for success:
1) Do the research. Sounds simple right? As a typical step in the market development process, it should be done. But, the way it is done makes the difference.
If companies plan to market to ethnic consumers, as the old saying goes, “fish where the fish are”. Conduct consumer and market research within the top 10 or 20 U.S. cities that index high for the specific ethnic group. For example, it makes no sense to conduct research for a product that will be catered to African-Americans anywhere in Connecticut or Arizona; instead go to NYC, Atlanta or Charlotte. The same approach should be done for Latinos and Asians. In highly index ethnic markets, a wider array of the ethnic consumers is available.
2) Have ethnic team members. Companies need ethnic team members to contribute to the product development process. They have invaluable personal knowledge about their specific ethnic group and they can help “decipher” learnings obtained from research. Ethnic team members must be given the opportunity to provide honest feedback – good or bad – without being fearful of any ramifications.
3) Be in it for the long haul. Publically traded companies have a responsibility to report their profits, losses and sales outlooks to Wall Street. With this being the case, companies are under immense pressure to realize profitable returns on their investments sooner vs. later. As with any new business venture, attracting new consumers through ethnic marketing initiatives will take time.
If publically traded companies make a decision to invest in ethnic marketing initiatives, they need to understand that profit, or brand awareness measures, or market share within a specific area may not reach the levels of general market measures during the first year.
4) Be involved in their community. Ethnic consumers are very savvy as to which brands support issues important to their demographic. Not only must companies promote on national levels, but also support on local levels as well. Grassroots marketing initiatives such as sponsorships, donations and sampling events help develop stronger relationships with ethnic consumers.
5) Successful company models. There are only a few companies that have done exceptionally well with their ethnic marketing initiatives. A few that come to mind are: Verizon, McDonalds, Procter & Gamble, Southwest, and Goya.
If done correctly, ethnic marketing can reap substantial rewards! It has been known to boost company perceptions, increase brand and product penetration measures and produce some of the most loyal consumers ever known! I urge companies to give it a try and stick it out.
(1) www.ReachingBlackConsumers.com. “Black Buying Power Continues to Rise”.
(2) www.terry.uga.edu. Hispanic consumer market in the U.S. is larger than the entire economies of all but 13 countries in the world, according to annual UGA Selig Center Multicultural Economy study.
(3) www.NationalJournal.com. “Buying Power of Hispanics Worth $1 Trillion, Report Says”.