In today’s highly competitive, volatile global marketplace, the most recent census figures offer compelling evidence that U.S. corporations, in their aggressive pursuit of overseas markets for their products and services, may be overlooking a multicultural consumer market gold mine in their own backyards.

New population estimates were recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau showing that, for the first time, the majority of Americans under the age of one are minorities. Or more specifically that white, non-Hispanic babies now make up less than half of the population younger than one. It’s part of a demographic shift that’s expected to create a minority-majority nationwide population sometime within the next 30 or 40 years. California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Texas have already passed that threshold at the state level.

The ethnic landscape of America’s cities has also changed dramatically in the past decade. Twenty-two of the 100 largest cities are now minority-majority cities. These cities include Boston, Memphis, New York City, Las Vegas, San Diego and Washington DC. Whites were the majority in those cities just 10 years ago. Similarly, the white population has fallen even further in several cities that already had white minorities in 2004, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Jose in California, as well as Miami and Houston.

Statistically, Blacks, Hispanics and Asians represent over 30 percent of the United States population. Research indicates that these ethnic groups are the fastest growing consumer groups in the country and that, contrary to popular stereotypes, they are brand loyal, have tremendous purchasing power, and are growing increasingly prosperous. Black, Hispanic and Asian consumers have a combined income of more than $4.4 trillion. And that is not chump change.

Multicultural consumers notice companies who notice them, rewarding them with their business, loyalty and support. As the American marketplace grows ever culturally and linguistically diverse, it’s clear that any company that does not actively pursue multicultural customers is leaving money on the table. Further, the economic clout of these diverse consumers will only grow: the census predicts that in less than 35 years, people of color will account for almost half of the nation’s population.

These compelling statistics make targeting culturally diverse and immigrant consumers an imperative for American companies. However, companies hoping to reach these fast growing emerging markets merely by “casting a wider net” will sell themselves short. Message exposure doesn’t necessarily mean message receptiveness, particularly in today’s disruptive digital media marketplace. Only by taking the time to understand the unique cultural sensibilities of diverse markets will companies compete effectively in the 21st century.

Juliette Mayers the Executive Director for Multicultural Marketing for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts shares seven success factors for those desiring to target multicultural consumers:

Do your Homework: Research whether formal or informal is critical to guiding your multicultural marketing program. The research data will inform you on the purchasing habits, lifestyle, and product and service preferences of multicultural consumers. Consult data to help tailor your marketing and advertising campaigns to fit your customers’ needs.

Get Buy-In: Launching a multicultural marketing program must be based on the fact that it makes good, practical business sense. To succeed, it must have the commitment both in human and financial resources and acceptance at all levels of the corporation, beginning at the office of the CEO.

Self Evaluate: It is important to evaluate your services and products to determine if they reflect the cultural sensibilities of consumers you are targeting.

Evaluate Competitors and Industry: Research your competitors and industry’s approach vis-à-vis multicultural consumers and evaluate and review best practices. Ask are there ways we can improve on what’s already being done in the marketplace industry? Then differentiate your brand strategy.

Engage Consumers Through Partnership: Engage in “socially responsible” corporate philanthropy and co-branding marketing programs and sponsorships that are important to multicultural consumers. Positive perception and word-of-mouth advertising are vital to fostering a positive relationship with culturally diverse consumers.

Identify Support Expertise: Outside help can be useful. Find a top quality multicultural/trans-cultural marketing communications firm to assist you. Such expertise can collaborate with your in-house marketing staff and/or advertising agency to ensure your marketing strategies are “on target,”as well as avert any crises that may result from unforeseen issues and perceptions that may arise.

The lesson for executives striving for greater market share and profits: Learn all you can about your target markets before you make your pitch. Whether you are a multi-national corporation or a company desiring to enter the global marketplace, how you engage and market to culturally diverse consumers here in the U.S., will not only prepare you to successfully compete abroad, it will reduce your cost of entry into global markets by foregoing costly marketing gaffes.

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