SOUTHFIELD, MI – Multicultural ad agency GlobalHue today revealed the results of a new U.S. survey of four major population segments, creating a comprehensive cultural map of a rapidly changing nation and providing marketers with new information on consumers in the New America.
Surveying people in African-American, Hispanic, Asian and non-Hispanic White segments, the report “Multicultural Nation: Divergence and Convergence in the New America,” arrives at three major findings.
First, the research points to increasing complexity within distinct segments, identifying eight subsegments for each of the four segments surveyed. The breakdown of the New America into these 32 subsegments suggests that commonly held assumptions about different groups, from which most marketers operate today, are irrelevant and risky in a rapidly changing and diversified consumer market.
Second, despite enduring cultural differences between people in the four segments, the report identifies mixed-ethnicity clusters of like-minded Americans converging in seven macrosegments, representing clusters of consumers grouped around highest common denominators. These macrosegments capture mindsets, beliefs and values that impact consumers’ feelings of optimism and pessimism and influence the degree of engagement in their communities. For example, the macrosegment titled Haves represents 20% of the U.S. population, or 71 million people. It is the most optimistic and engaged group and enjoys the best economic and educational level. This segment, the most attractive initially for any marketer, is also the most balanced across ethnicities: Asian, 31%; Hispanic, 16.5%; African American, 21.5%; and non-Hispanic Whites, 16%. (See attached infographics titled “sifting the data” and “macrosegments.”)
“To understand the New America today requires more than a single cultural lens,” says Don Coleman, Chairman of GlobalHue. “Instead, it is as meaningful to look for cross-ethnicity similarities as it is to acknowledge cultural differences. With this report, marketers can clearly see a path for connecting with consumer segments from different groups simultaneously through cultural relevance.”
Third, the sense of possibility is the strongest force driving consumers’ perception of, and relationship with, categories and brands. By understanding how people cluster along the variables of optimism and engagement, marketers can identify the most empowered and motivated consumers.
The study reveals that, across the different segments and demographics, the United States is splitting along two distinct paths headed in opposite directions: a Bifurcation Chasm of the Engaged/Optimistic and the Disengaged/Pessimistic.
About 54% of people surveyed fell into the optimistic quadrants and 46% on the pessimistic side of the spectrum, while 49% are engaged and 51% are disengaged. (See attached infographic titled “sifting the data.”)
The research suggests that, in order to predict consumer behavior, marketers need to understand consumer groups not only by their current situation, but also by how they will be prepared to deal with a growing bifurcation in wealth and possibilities.
“The backdrop to many of the decisions made by the American consumer today is the degree of optimism or pessimism that they feel,” says Coleman. “In this sense, the Bifurcation Chasm has important implications for marketers seeking to understand all American consumers, whether urban or rural, upwardly mobile or downscale, acculturated or newly migrated.”
Within each of the groups, key findings include the following:
The most successful and optimistic among Hispanic segments, as self-identified, are those that are bicultural and feel empowered to pick and choose from multiple cultures. Conversely, the most acculturated Hispanic segments, such as the ones represented in the Culturally Disconnected and Pressured Disenchanted subsegments, are the least successful and most isolated. These are Hispanics who are also the least likely to identify with a community, be bilingual or have strong ties to country of origin.
“The Hispanic segment of the study upends commonly held notions of acculturation,” says Laura Marella, Vice Chairman, GlobalHue. “The message to marketers is that greater acculturation is, in fact, not a proxy for high-value consumers.”
A good part of the optimistic Hispanic group is disengaged, like the Forward-Focused Youth and the Techies. They are young and very positively oriented towards technology. These two macrosegments open opportunities for marketers by offering alternatives for participation and brand engagement that are replacing more conventional channels used in the past.
In this multifaceted group, there is no strong, unifying historical context as there is for Hispanics; however, there are some commonalities. Asians show the highest degrees of optimism (just one-third are pessimistic) and rank the highest in educational level (49% college graduate vs. 30% among non-Hispanic Whites and 20% among African-American and Hispanic segments).
They are also very valuable consumers: more Asians fall into the Techies macrosegment (20.3%) than any other group. Plus, they have the highest proportion (20.5%) of the Haves macrosegment.
It is a highly splintered segment, containing subsegments of Rapid Assimilation and Disenfranchised Youth.
Says Marella, “The findings will likely cause many marketers to adjust their U.S. Asian marketing strategies, since the study reveals that younger, more acculturated Asians are widely divergent. There are some that definitely fit the perception of highly educated, tech-savvy, young professionals. However, there are also subgroups that are young and very disengaged and disenfranchised. This divergence is also apparent in older populations and calls into question the generational focus of much of today’s Asian marketing.”
As with the Hispanic segment, these Asian subgroups that have the weakest connection with their culture of origin are the least successful, and those who most feel they’ve failed in pursuing the American Dream. “Updated Affluents” and “Upscale Professionals” are the only ones considered engaged – the lowest percentage among all the ethnicities – and the ones who are more comfortably related with their culture of origin.
Almost 50% of African Americans fell into the “engaged” category, marking the highest level of community and social participation of any of the segments.
“African Americans maintain one of the most uniformly positive but realistic outlooks of all groups,” says Allen Pugh, Vice Chairman, GlobalHue. “This group defies two conventional beliefs. One, that more affluent people are disengaged at the community level, and, two, that you need to have a very positive outlook to feel committed and be participative. African Americans’ strong social sense and work ethic make the African-American ‘Strivers’ even better prepared for the Bifurcation Chasm.”
This the most polarized of all segments and the one that best reflects the Bifurcation Chasm, with income and education levels provoking this polarization. Within the macrosegments, non-Hispanic Whites make up the greatest proportion of Engaged Worriers (23.1%), a group that is moderately optimistic and very engaged, and Downscale Wrong-Trackers (20.1%), the most pessimistic and disengaged group.
Along the Bifurcation Chasm, most in the group are already in danger of slipping out of a secure middle-class existence. Their level of disengagement and feeling that “they can’t win, even if they play by the rules” likely will prevent most from trying new careers, getting retraining, or figuring out a different path forward.
To contrast the findings between people identified as multicultural versus non-Hispanic Whites, the study offers the following data on optimism/pessimism scale:
-- 56% of multicultural Americans agree that "my life is better than my
parents' lives were," while only 44% of non-Hispanic Whites do.
-- 61.6% of multicultural Americans agree that "my children will have a
better life than I do," while only 37.4% of non-Hispanic Whites do.
-- 29.6% of multicultural Americans agree that "the quality of life for
me and my family has really improved in the last few years," while
only 18.5% of non-Hispanic Whites do.
“With this report, we can see how Americans go their separate ways but also where they come together,” says Coleman. “While the bifurcation of America into two main groups is disquieting, the other findings of the report also point to a blurring of borders between ethnicities that is entirely new and hopeful. The convergence of different groups in seven macrosegments will allow marketers to target the ‘highest common denominators’ that motivate consumers in this New America.”
The study was fielded between June 22 and July 15, 2009, and consists of 8,309 quantitative online and telephone interviews broken out in the following manner: Africanic: 1,777 respondents; Asian: 1,381; Latino: 1,994; non-Hispanic White: 2,748; and other: 409. The sample is nationally representative, with an oversample of 3,000 additional interviews, evenly divided between Africanics, Asians and Hispanics in regionally representative areas.
The questionnaire, consisting of 287 questions, covered demographic information, lifestyle habits and attitudes, current behaviors regarding media consumption and usage, and technology reliance and usage, as well as shopping, traveling, and entertainment habits. In addition, it included Trompenaars Hampten-Turner’s seven cultural dimensions, as well as a modified Myers-Briggs personality profile.
For more information, visit www.globalhue.com/research.