Marketing to the New American Mainstream

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If you're looking for your business to grow, you'll have to recognize that the average consumer has changed—a lot.

It's interesting combing through the notes from readers that I get in my inbox as a journalist, especially with the topics that I cover. I get a lot of “You know what you should report?” and “That was great, but…” or “I couldn't have put it better myself.”

About a week and a half ago I got a particularly interesting note. It was from the president of a company that sold powerboats. When I opened the note, I thought that I'd get the usual critique, comment, or praise letter. But this one was different. It read:

Natasha,

I just saw your article on American Express and diversity marketing. I am on the board of [a boating association], and we are interested in learning more about the changing demographics in our country and the best way to market to the new consumers. I was wondering if you can [help] in this area?

So I gave him a call, and we chatted. And I asked him for more details. He candidly explained to me that the association was beginning to recognize that if their industry was to remain relevant—and grow—then they would have to do a couple of things. One: Acknowledge the changing landscape of American consumers—one that's the more racially diverse, female, and younger. Two: If companies in that industry wanted to grow their revenues, they would have to begin to market to communities that, traditionally, have been ignored.

I did some research, and about a week later I give him several reports on consumer spending and income—broken down by age, gender, racial groups, and sexual orientation. I want to stress that marketers should recognize today's shift in who might be an ideal or target consumer. Marketers need to cast a much wider and more diverse net for their products and services because if they don't, they stand to lose a lot of revenue, market share, and respect from potential or current customers.

It's important for marketers to understand this: One of the best ways to market to a particular group—whether minorities, females, young adults, or perhaps the LGBT community—is to hire people who are either in that group and have a true understanding of the subculture and its needs. Or hire people who have a desire to meet the needs of that community. That's what the reader who I mentioned earlier saw in my Amex article. Amex has an internal team of employees who are part of the LGBT community, so they brought their natural interests—and business needs—to Amex.

Here, I wanted to share a few facts about the demographics of the millions of women, young Americans, and minorities in the United States. Right now, some of you may be contemplating how to include diversity marketing in your plans for 2016, and hopefully beyond. Others may be trying to determine how to further your current efforts. Either way, I think you'll find these statistics sobering and possibly inspiring.

1. Wages are trending upward for women and downward for men in the U.S., although women still make only about 80 cents for every dollar that a white male earns. It's less for women of color, just 65 cents by many estimates for every dollar. (Pew Research Center)

2. Blacks and Hispanics spend more than whites with comparable incomes on so-called visible goods—clothes, cars, and jewelry. A lot more, in fact—up to an additional 30%. (Slate)

3. In 2011 the typical white household had a net worth of $91,405, compared with $6,446 for black households, $7,843 for Hispanic households, and $91,203 for Asian households. (Pew Research Center)

4. Young women today are the first in modern history to start their work lives at near parity with men. In 2012, among workers ages 25 to 34, women's hourly earnings were 93% those of men. By comparison, among all working men and women ages 16 and older, women's hourly wages were 84% of men. (Pew Research Center)

5. Fifty-one percent of surveyed marketers say that they have a multicultural marketing initiative in place. (CMO Council and Geoscape)

6. About 3.8% of adults in the United States—some nine million people—identify as a member of the LGBT community. (Williams Institute)

7. From 1968 (the year that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act) to 2014, the percentage of whites working in high-paying technical professions (engineering, science, software, and medical) doubled from 3.2 to 6.7%. For blacks, the rate quintupled, from one percent to 4.9%, improving the relative position of blacks to whites. (Brookings Institution)

8. Forty-three percent of Americans with more than $500,000 in assets are female. (She-conomy)

9. Women make 85% of brand purchases, yet just 3% of advertising creative directors are women. (She-conomy)

10. In 2012 73% of white households owned their own homes, compared with 44% of black households, 57% of Asian households, and 46% of Hispanic households. (United States Census Bureau)

DMNotes is DMN's around-the-clock blog. Yes, a blog in 2016.

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