Sounding Off: Loida Rosario “Census 2010: Predictions for a Digital, Multicultural World”

With a high participation rate, the 2010 U.S. Census information will be even more instrumental in guiding multicultural public engagement.

The population of the United States according to the data released today is 308,745,538. This number reflects a growth rate of 9.7 percent which is the second lowest growth rate in the past century. The numbers to be released in the coming weeks and months will show that, when counted separately, the growth rates of African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics continue to surpass that of the general population. Yet, African-American, Asian and Hispanic populations are underrepresented in digital marketing strategies despite over-indexing, that is, showing above-average tendencies toward digital activity. Edelman’s Multicultural team looked at some of the implications of the 2010 U.S. Census data.

Growth in Population

Prediction: African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics in the U.S. will account for 80-90 percent of the population growth in the last 10 years.

Implication: These growth rates will further drive African-Americans, Asians, and Hispanics to over-index as users of digital media, including social media. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter will continue to see growth in all market segments, including minorities, but marketers should also watch for smaller sites that cater to subgroups within these populations. BET.com and Essence are two online destinations for African-Americans and Mun2 over-indexes for the Hispanic market. According to a recent study by BIG Research, 35.4 percent of Asians regularly purchase products online, followed by, in order of likeliness to purchase online, African-Americans, Hispanics, and lastly Caucasians. Mobile usage across these groups will accelerate, as early predictions of purchase intent of smartphones during the Holiday season suggest, and will firmly establish mobile platforms as an essential way to engage with these groups. According to a recent Pew study, African-American teens typically exchange seven mobile phone calls per day, while Caucasians teens only exchange four calls per day. Also, from the same study, “44 percent of African-American and 35 percent of Hispanic teens use their cell phones to go online, compared with 21 percent of Caucasian teens.”

Aging in America

Prediction: The average median age in the U.S. is going from 36.8 to 37. However, the average median age for Hispanics will go up by less than the general population, with an estimated age of 28, up from 27.4. African-Americans will also be an average age of four to five years younger than the general population. Asian populations will show growth in the youth age segment, as well as in the over 50 year old age segment.

Implication: Given the natural attraction to technology and digital media by the youth, digital technologies, especially rich formats and connected ads, and messaging that travels seamlessly across platforms, will get more traction. A BIG Research study cited on HispanicAd.com says that African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely to be online “downloading music or checking movie schedules, while Asians are instant messaging and playing video games.” The research also notes that, “downloading music and videos is a top priority for minorities online.” African Americans and Hispanics, known-trendsetters in fashion, music, entertainment and other artistic endeavors, will inspire newer and more engaging forms of digital media.

The Youth

Prediction: According to past data 22 percent of children, 18 years of age and younger, in the U.S. are Hispanic. Because of the staggering growth in population, young Latinos are likely to account for close to 25 percent of all youth (18 and under) in the U.S.

Implication: Latinos, regardless of level of acculturation or language preference will show significant increases in digital media usage: English-dominant and Bilingual Hispanics will show Internet penetration similar to that of the general market. According to Aaron Smith, commenting on Pew research about Internet use and broadband adoption rates, “Over the last decade the internet population has come to much more closely resemble the racial composition of the population as a whole.” Spanish-dominant Hispanics’ Internet use will rise significantly above the presumed 50 percent, also stimulated by the availability of more Spanish-language content options. (According to Internet World Stats, Spanish is the third most popular language on the internet, preceded by English and Chinese.) Targeting marketing communications with increased language sensitivity will become easier for marketers.

Diversification

Prediction: The distribution by ethnic group as a percent of the U.S. population will continue to emphasize the growth in Hispanics, Asians from South Asia and multiracial households.

Implication: The themes, tonality, language nuances, and frames of reference for online conversations will have to be further understood by communication professionals. Speaking in English may not be enough to understand the underlying sentiment that drives true consumer engagement. Likewise, communication to and from to the country of origin will continue to rise, prompting smart marketers to analyze comments across U.S. boundaries.

Change in Diverse Groups

Prediction: The percent of African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics of the total population will rise above the previously presumed 33 percent.

Implication: Ethnic online engagement as a percentage of the total population of online activity will continue to dramatically increase. Currently, “Minority internet users are more than twice as likely to use Twitter as are Caucasian internet users,” according to Pew’s research on “Who Tweets?” Ethnic minorities (a familiar yet increasingly less-accurate term) are likely to become a larger more visible force in the digital discourse.

Many reports and analyses are likely to follow the next three months of census data releases. Do not let the sheer amount of data and suppliers cloud your perspectives. Understand your own customer base, where has your growth come from, where is it likely to come from in the future. Seek to understand both the differences and similarities among these groups and between “general markets.” Do not try to oversimplify solutions–you have been there before. Take a fresh approach that allows sound business and marketing principles guide your direction. Embrace multiculturalism at its core.

In the end, my favorite prediction for the 2010 Census results is that the data will catapult the discussion of diverse market segments in the U.S. from the fringes of corporations to the boardrooms. Are you ready?

Loida Rosario is SVP, Multicultural Strategy and Planning of Edelman’s Chicago office.

*Content adapted from an EdelmanDigital.com article


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