MBPT Spotlight: A New Way to View Today’s Ethno-Cultural Consumers

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We have lived in a country that for more than two centuries has been demographically dominated by a white Caucasian majority. We are now in the midst of an unprecedented sea change as the combined grouping of Asian-Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, African-Americans and American members of the LGBT community evolve into America’s New Majority.

Marketers and their media agencies that are attuned to this change have realized that skin color, language preference or lifestyle choice have lost significant value in planning strategies and tactics to address these audiences.

Screen Engine is a Los Angeles-based market research company with a strong base of entertainment clients and an embedded curiosity about the American population. With an intention to publish a quarterly-delivered report we title The New Majority Brief, we approached Americans of all ethnicities and lifestyle choices hypothesizing that there is simply more that ties us Americans together than sets us apart.

We looked for the commonalities as well as the differences and sought to find out what happens when Americans are segmented based on values rather than demography.

What we learned was that each of the four value-based segments generated from this study is ethnically diverse; that common values transcend ethnic or cultural differences; and that there is much common ground in values, motivations, behaviors and desires.

We used our new proprietary panel Engine 360, which consists of 30,000 Americans, to power The New Majority Brief. Each panelist’s demographics, media and technology usage, consumer behavior and more have been extensively profiled. Then we focused on developing a value-based segmentation dividing people into four sub-groups by how they share common behaviors and media preferences. Three thousand interviews were conducted, of which more than half were Caucasians, and the balance spread over Hispanic/Latinos, African American, Asian and an overlay of LGBT consumers.

What does this all mean to marketers and their media agencies? We feel that it means it is time to shift thinking on how to most effectively reach our diverse American population. Old habits must be broken, new ideas must be let in. It means that supplemental multi-cultural efforts no longer truly reflect the country’s rich diversity. Simply sprinkling some ethnic-directed efforts on top of a "mainstream" program as a strategy to cover all the bases must be overcome. It means that to truly unlock the buying power of this New Majority, a deeper understanding of them must be engaged and understood.

The New Majority Brief reveals the four value-based segments of the total adult U.S. population. Each ethnically diverse segment has distinguishing values/characteristics/ behaviors/attitudes thats sets it apart from the others. It makes it clear that while there is still a place for approaching the “New Majority” with specific demographic, ethnic and cultural understanding, approaches that are more reflective of the ties that bind all Americans are much more likely to succeed.

There are four key implications for researchers as well. As the American population evolves to the New Majority, sampling targets must be adapted to better reflect current reality. It is a fact that even large-scale general market research projects need better ethnic representation. There are no quick fixes and relying on weighting to handle under-represented ethnic targets falls short. And all of this is especially true for samples targeting urban markets or millennials.

We are setting out to publish a quarterly deep dive delivering a better understanding, learning and insights into America’s New Majority. This changing American population profile requires marketers and the agencies that serve them to stay current and connected to this evolution. 

There is a path for marketers to move from traditional approaches and thinking into a deeper understanding of the importance of America’s four segments that we identify as Live Wires, Family Traditionalists, Mainstreamers and Individualists. Each is diverse, and each is distinguished in a variety of behaviors, values and attitudes.

• Live Wires, which make up 22% of the general population are principally 18-34 and more ethnic and male, politically liberal, cutting edge, trend setting and sexually active. They are optimistic, believing that they have the power to get ahead regardless of how tough things are. They are the most focused on ethnicity and cultural heritage.

• Mainstreamers are 24% of the general population and primarily Gen X (35-49), politically moderate/conservative, believe in luck, cost conscious, techie and mainstream in taste. They are concerned about having enough money to live a comfortable life.

• Individualists make up 22% of the population. They are also diverse with a strong LGBT and 50+ population. They are politically liberal, unconventional, quirky and into self-discovery and creativity. They are who they are and are proud of it.

• Family Traditionalists are 32% of the general population. They are primarily 50+, and more female. Politically conservative, they are traditional, thoughtful, committed, focused on family relationships and grounded by a rich spiritual life.

Our findings about media habits include:

• Live Wires are the heaviest viewers of TV programs on the Internet, watching a minimum of a couple of times a week. They prefer watching concerts, biographies, celebrity and talent reality shows.

• Mainstreamers are the heaviest viewers of Primetime TV, watching 20 hours or more a week, preferring to watch sitcoms.

• Individualists prefer watching theatrical movies on TV and talk shows.

• Family Traditionalists prefer watching home or DIY shows, talk shows, food/cooking shows and crime dramas.

• Live Wires are not only widely-represented users on social media sites, they are also the most engaged segment. Individualists are similarly active in social media despite having the oldest demographic skew. Both Mainstreamers and Family traditionalists show much less involvement with Internet activities.

• You are more likely to find a gaming device in the hands of a Live Wire or Mainstreamer than in the hands of Individualists or Family Traditionalists.

Some key findings in our research exploring attitudes and behaviors about topics of general interest include:

• Cultural identification is strong and supported by our American heritage. Both non-ethnic whites and ethnic minorities agree that our culture is constantly evolving and is a melting pot that welcomes celebrations of an individual’s culture.

• Differences in media consumption are more related to age than ethnicity.

• The more personal concerns of the cost/quality of education and healthcare, along with concerns for family are universal.

• Citizens as a whole share similar levels of concern for our leadership in Washington.

• Ethnic minorities feel stronger ties to the broader American culture than the general population and LGBT community.

• There is universal support for technology as an important tool for connecting with and learning about the world but ethnic minorities place greater emphasis on its importance as a tool for getting ahead and on the fact that it should be readily accessible to all.

As we extensively explore each of these segments throughout the year, the importance and value of reaching this New Majority will become self-evident.

Screen Engine/ASI is a full service market research and marketing information agency based in Century City, Calif.

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