What to focus on in 2017 for Multicultural Marketing

There has been a lot of hand-wringing in the marketing community since the presidential election – especially among multicultural marketers or those targeting constituencies viewed to have ‘lost’ in the recent match-up. When we woke up on November 9th it appeared that the world had shifted and the idea that the U.S. was becoming a more multicultural, diverse, and inclusive nation was somehow invalidated. While I too was surprised by the election result, I’m curious as to why people think it somehow matters from a marketing and advertising perspective.

Last time I checked (just now) the United States had 325,083,770 residents of which 19% voted for one candidate & 20% for the other. Combined, those percentages total less than half of the total consumers in our country. Additionally, only about half of the adult population of the country voted. The conversation seems to revolve around the 19% of Americans that voted for one candidate and less so about the 20% that chose the other or the 61% of Americans that did not vote for either because they were under 18, disenfranchised, or are not tuned into politics. The results of the presidential election do not matter from a consumer marketing perspective. Most brands cannot limit themselves to customers of one political ideology or another.

Here’s what matters:

51% of Americans are women

They buy things for themselves and their families. They want to be respected, understood and valued.

37% of Americans identify as something other than non-Hispanic White

That number increases to just over 50% for the youngest Americans. They too want to be respected, understood and valued – regardless of political affiliation or lack thereof.

Demographics of the voting public do not match the demographics of the nation

Voters are older, whiter and more rural than most Americans. Of those three differences, age is by far the greatest difference. 38% of 18-24 year olds vote while 70% of Americans 65+ vote. The largest U.S. minority group, Hispanics, are on average 16 years younger than non-Hispanic Whites which translates into a lot of Hispanic non-voters. This mismatch in voting patterns by age and demographics makes certain groups seem more, or less, numerous than they are. The opinions of voters, however, mean nothing in our nation’s car lots, shopping centers, or online retail sites. Products that meet consumer needs matter and advertising that directs them to those products matters.

Segmenting consumers by factors other than political ideology mattered before the election and it matters now. Perhaps the political polling system needs fixing but marketing segmentation models that worked before the election will work in 2017. If anything, they’ll work better as sampling methods are refined to ensure national representativeness. Refinements to models, such as making sure that rural residents are included in surveys are fine but the consumer insights community does not need to abandon multiculturalism or recalibrate their models to emphasize political affiliation.

By the way, 500 new Americans were born since I started writing this piece. They need diapers, snuggly blankets and cute outfits to wear. Marketers need to focus on their needs and the needs of the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic (including whites), multi-gendered, and multi-generational America we all love.