Sounding Off: Terry Soto – Youth and Age in Corporate America’s Cultural Dichotomy
Corporate marketers, are you ready? I’m going to ask you a difficult question.
Is your age outpacing your organization’s relevancy?
The topic begs discussion when recognizing that, generationally and culturally, half of ALL Gen Z consumers (46%), and 40% of Gen Y and Gen X consumers are multicultural. Conversely, 66% of Boomers and 80% of Seniors 65+ are Non-Hispanic White.
Commenting on a recent blog on strategic relevance, Dan Stanek, EVP of Big Red Rooster replied, “Innovation is more difficult when leaders are much older than the target market and do not understand how they operate.”
Is he right?
Generational and cultural skews represent significant challenges for a lot of today’s senior executives. If they want their companies to remain relevant and in demand, they are tasked at this particular point in marketing history to not only shed traditional views and ways, but to learn to understand and address cultural diversity in younger generations.
Leading with Age and Culture Insights
The sharper minds in corporate America are already in sync with the country's age and cultural trends.
- From Pamela El, VP-Marketing at State Farm in the Ad Age article, “Brands Prepare for a More Diverse 'General Market,” “We know the face of America is changing, and we want our marketing communications to mirror what's going on in this country, so State Farm has shifted its marketing based on the understanding that young people across ethnic groups may have more in common than older folks of the same race. It's very deliberate. I think industry-wide, as America becomes more multicultural, you will see more ethnic insights across the board. I think we're seeing it already, but I think we'll see it two-, three, four-, five-fold going forward.”
- "It’s very clear that African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American consumers set the trends and McDonald's has found it more valuable to apply these segments' preferences to the overall marketplace than to apply overall preferences to these segments,” said McDonald's USA Chief Marketing Officer Neil Golden at the 2010 ANA Masters of Marketing Conference, adding that 40 percent of McDonald's U.S. business comes from the Hispanic, Asian and African-American markets.
- From Coca Cola’s CMO, Bea Perez, as she kicked off this year’s Nielsen Consumer 360 conference: “We know that eighty-six percent of the growth through 2020 for Coca-Cola's youth-target market will come from multicultural consumers, especially Hispanic, and focusing on this segment is critical to the company's future growth.”
These are the exceptions, however. The gap is wide between the multiculturally influenced Gen X, Y & Z markets and the bulk of US corporate retailers who can’t “see” the relevance in educating their game to new consumer market trends.
In mid-June at the Consumer 360 Conference in Miami, Nielsen’s CEO David Calhoun told 1,400 retailer and CPG executives to spend 65 percent of their time figuring out their Hispanic opportunity because it is no doubt the single biggest source of growth for all companies in the U.S. in the short and long term.
“The story here is that within the next five years, multicultural clients will drive 86 percent of the total growth on spending at retail and if you look at growth without these groups, you are only addressing 10 percent of the growth,” added Nielsen’s SVP, Claudia Pardo at the same conference.
So Go Ahead - Get in Sync
Are you relevant? Is your organization benefitting from your “in the know” view? Consider these four ways you can hit “refresh” on innovating relevantly for your company.
1. To up your game, go meet the players
Get out into your stores. Stand in line. Get into the marketplace. The first step is to notice the young and multiethnic market around you, and acknowledge that it exists. Go to your kids’ schools. Go to the mall and look at the people who are shopping there with you. Go shopping in the next town over and partake in the same exercise. Most people are not used to being ethnographers, or observing beyond the things they are used to seeing. Go out to notice.
2. Make observations
Are you seeing and acknowledging the multicultural influences on the non-minority Gen Z, Y and X? What about your kids and their kids? Are there multi-cultural families, individuals and stores in places you hadn’t noticed before or expected? Are you getting upset that the person in line in front of you can’t speak English? Or are you thinking that this contingency is spending US cash, and asking yourself what might be possible to positioning your company to capture those dollars.
3. Ask questions about what you observe
Are your current channels for conversation helping to get you in sync? Are you reading and commenting on online publications and blogs? Twitter? Or, are you asking why you should bother? What are people talking about at dinner parties, conferences and chit chat while waiting for that call to begin? Start conversations by asking people about what you have observed. What have they noticed? How are they responding?
4. Bring your observations back to the work environment
What are people talking about in your organization? Are they talking about what you have noticed? Are YOU talking about what you have noticed? Are you noticing whether your company is in sync with what you have observed? With whom can you kindle this conversation in your business?
Relevance in the new marketplace is coming to rely on the burgeoning cultural influences from and on younger generations. Don’t let “a blind eye” impede your contribution to your company’s innovation and growth.
Terry Soto is President and CEO of About Marketing Solutions, Inc. Author of Marketing to Hispanics: A Strategic Approach to Assessing and Planning Your Initiative and co-author of Grow with America: Best Practices in Ethnic Marketing and Merchandising. Terry's consulting expertise spans a broad range of industries including such companies as Wells Fargo Bank, Cigna Health Care, Coca Cola, Kraft Foods, Walgreens, Disney Consumer Products, United States Postal Service, Verizon Wireless, Autozone, and Absolut Vodka.
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