Harder Times Ahead: Updated Economic Forecast and Survey Results on Consumer Finances and Purchasing

Harder Times Ahead: Updated Economic Forecast and Survey Results on Consumer Finances and Purchasing
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As the COVID-19 Pandemic tightens its grip on America, consumer attitudes regarding financial security and social activities continue to change. Here’s the latest information brands need to strategically prepare for both short-term needs and long-term expectations.

Last week’s news headlines were filled with quite a few anxiety-inducing story lines. We have President Trump remarking that things will get worse before they get betterAmerica crossing the 4 million mark on COVID 19 casesan uptick in unemployment, the use of unmarked federal agents to suppress protests in Portland, spawning solidarity protests around the country, and uncertainty about the contents of the next coronavirus relief bill.  The resurgence of COVID-19, protests for social justice, and a political season of unprecedented polarization has gripped American culture, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how the next four months will evolve, let alone our longer-term future.

Given all the uncertainty and stress, it’s more important than ever for marketers to keep a finger on the pulse of important consumer attitudes and behaviors. To support this need, we at Collage have been conducting an intermittent tracking survey of how 18 to 39-year-old Americans, a group we call the New Wave, are responding to this extraordinary time.  We focus on the New Wave not only because this generation’s preferences will determine the fate of growth for countless brands, but also because the New Wave represents the first generation to grow up in a highly diverse environment. Our tracking survey observes how this group of consumers perceives their financial situation to be changing, and what activities they currently feel comfortable doing. Keep reading to see what we learned from our most recent pulse check taken of more than 1,800 New Wave consumers between July 20-23 as compared to a prior survey taken in mid-June.

New Wave Consumers See Harder Times on the Horizon

The clearest finding from our most recent survey is that New Wave consumers, across race and ethnicity, are more likely to expect their financial situation to get worse over the next month, compared to how they felt just a month ago. Similarly, they’re also much less likely to see their finances improving.

The change in expectation that finances will be worse is largest for Black and Hispanic consumers (9 and 7 percentage point shift, respectively). These responses likely reflect an increase in job insecurity given the re-emergence of social distancing and pausing of re-openings around the country, two actions which disproportionately impact the service industry jobs these segments are more likely to have. We expect these segments to be more price-sensitive in the coming months, especially if Congress fails to extend unemployment support in the next Coronavirus bill.

Consumers Remain Hesitant to Engage in Social Activities that Drive the Economy

Another key indicator in likely economic activity is how comfortable people feel engaging in the social activities which drive personal consumption and job creation. The story here is that of little meaningful change: consumer hesitancy to participate in these activities remains low across the board. We’re four months into a worsening pandemic and unsurprisingly we see that most consumers just aren’t comfortable getting back to life “as it was.” The only substantial difference across multicultural segments is that non-Hispanic white consumers tend to be more comfortable engaging in these social activities, while unacculturated Hispanics tend to be less comfortable overall.

Purchase of Consumer Staples Appears to Be on the Rise, at Least in the Short Term

Despite the greater concern with finances and slightly reduced comfort with public places overall, New Wave consumers report they plan to spend more in a few areas, notably food, personal care, and home care. We see some movement in other categories as well, but the real story is lingering overall hesitancy to increase spending on non-essentials. These two findings could represent a tendency towards “stocking up and hunkering down” in anticipation of renewed social-distancing guidelines or catch-up spending on essential goods that may have been deferred during the first few months of the pandemic. Regardless of the cause, the sustainability of the increase in essentials purchasing depends on what happens with the pandemic and the Coronavirus bill over the next few weeks. Learn more in the download above.

Downturn Will Be Deeper than Previously Forecast, But Return to Growth After 2021 Looks Steep

Economic projections of the COVID-19 Recession have become more pessimistic across the last several months. Indeed, the most likely outcomes envisage no return to the long-term growth rate in consumer expenditure before 2025. That said, forecasts suggest that the depth of the downturn will be matched by a very rapid rate of growth for a few years. If history is any guide, that updraft will coincide with increasing employment and consumer confidence even if absolute levels of expenditure are below those preceding the COVID-19 Recession

Lean In to Multiculturals Now to Ensure Mid-term and Long-term Growth 

While much of the current pandemic response is out of our hands, it’s imperative for brands to begin the process of preparing for the eventual recovery and future-proofing their long-term strategy. When growth returns, which it will, marketers must recognize that this traumatic year has only heightened the importance of multicultural consumers. Between household formation, immigration,and a declining white population, the dominance of multicultural expenditure growth and cultural influence in the medium and long term is a foregone conclusion.

There is simply no way that companies can expect to grow over the next decades without capturing these important consumer segments. The first step to doing that is showing up for them when they need you most. We suggest brands take advantage of the opportunity to show up for these segments in this time of crisis. People will remember who lent a helping hand and advocated for their needs, and who did not. People will remember efforts to improve the representation of multicultural consumers and their stories in advertising. When the pandemic ends and Americans again feel comfortable spending and taking advantage of your categories, this may make all the difference in the brands and products they choose.

In the download, you will find a sampling of the latest COVID-19 economic projections and implications for multicultural consumers, incorporating a comparison with forecasts released one quarter ago, and the most recent pulse survey on consumer expectations for financial security and social behaviors.

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A Mile in Your Shoes: What Brands Need to Know about Sneaker Culture and the Multicultural Youth Consumer

A Mile in Your Shoes: What Brands Need to Know about Sneaker Culture and the Multicultural Youth Consumer
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Many Gen Z and Millennial Americans are passionate about fashion. We’re providing a closer look at the shoe industry, a corner of fashion where iconic brand collaborations create a highly competitive market.

Collecting sneakers is a hobby at the intersection of fashion, sports, and brand identity. Accordingly, the market of sneaker enthusiasts, or “sneakerheads,” is predominantly young and multicultural.

Some of the most popular and well-known sneakers, like Jordans, feature sports legends, but collecting sneakers is much more than just being able to wear your favorite basketball player’s shoes when you are on the court yourself. Sneakerhead culture is also about collecting sneakers and being able to impress other collectors with your own collection. Sneakerheads are always on the lookout for the next limited-edition sneaker, and they must act quickly once it “drops” in order to improve their collection.  As a self-proclaimed sneakerhead myself, few moments rival unboxing a new, rare pair of sneakers. It’s the same feeling I had as a kid when I would find my favorite athlete’s trading card in a new deck, or a rare state quarter in spare change.

But what makes sneaker collecting different from other forms of novelty items is that brands have permission to play. A very popular type of limited-edition sneaker is a co-branded sneaker, made in partnership with a brand or influencer. These partnerships allow sneakerheads to express their love of specific brands and sneakers all at once. Shoe brands collaborate with other recognizable brands, like Gatorade, PlayStation, McDonalds, or even Ben & Jerry’s, to create limited-edition sneakers. These shoes are generally released as part of a special one-time promotion, or because a specific athlete pushed for a collaboration with one of their own favorite brands.  A personal highlight of my sneaker collection is my Nike Kyrie 5 Spongebob sneakers, a collaboration between Nickelodeon and basketball star Kyrie Irving – as well as a frequent sight around the pre-quarantine Collage Group office!

Nike Kyrie 5 x SpongeBob (Patrick Star), 2019, Resell Price $230-420

Co-branded sneakers are frequently some of the most anticipated releases for sneakerheads. Many spend hours in line waiting outside select store locations, and you’ll find even more refreshing tabs on multiple personal devices trying to secure their own pair in time. Many brands that create co-branded sneakers are usually connected to other passion points resonant with multicultural consumers, like gaming, music, and other entertainment. But one of the most sought-after sneaker drops of 2020 so far had nothing to do with entertainment media at all. Nike’s SB Dunk Low Chunky Dunky is a Ben & Jerry’s branded sneaker which released on May 26th and has become one of the most popular sneakers of 2020 so far. Sneakerheads across the globe entered raffles trying to win a right to purchase a pair. The enthusiasm for the Chunky Dunky continued even after the raffles ended, with pairs selling on StockX, a popular resell sneaker marketplace, for up to twenty times its original price!

Nike SB Dunk Low Ben & Jerry's Chunky Dunky, 2020, Resell Price $1550-2200

So what’s the magic to creating a popular co-branded sneaker? Beyond brand name recognition, you need a unique design and an understanding of creative elements already present in popular shoes. In the Ben & Jerry’s collaboration, the cow skinned pattern and “melting” Nike swoosh symbol are unique elements that are unique to the shoe and intuitively connected to the Ben & Jerry’s brand.  Another great example is 2018’s Nike PG 2.5 x PlayStation sneaker, another personal favorite in my collection. The shoe has PlayStation buttons all over it, four Nike swooshes that match the colors of a PlayStation controller, and light-up logos on the tongue – something you just don’t see on an everyday shoe. Sneakerheads want co-branded shoes which have unique elements like these that make real the connection with the brand, almost like Easter Eggs for true brand fanatics to admire.

Nike PG 2.5 PlayStation Multi-Color, 2018, Resell Price $160-300

The best co-branded sneakers are limited, unique in their design, and the result of collaborations connecting to other passion points of young, multicultural consumers. Creating an iconic co-pair is not easy, but it can bring a lot of cultural relevance to a brand across these key consumer segments. Someone wearing a branded sneaker becomes a living, walking advertisement, openly demonstrating their love of the brand, and promoting it to all they interact with. It is essential for brands to generate this word of mouth among the most influential consumer segments. Having a good sneaker is also a great way for brands to break through with young, multicultural consumers, even before they might consider the product or service a brand offers. If you want to build lasting brand loyalty, you need to start from the ground up – and what better place than a good shoe?

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What #Goyaway Means for Hispanic and Multicultural Marketing in 2020

What #Goyaway Means for Hispanic and Multicultural Marketing in 2020
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Public support for the Trump Administration risks serious consumer backlash across multicultural segments. Here’s what brands need to know about multicultural politics in 2020.

On July 9, 2020, in a White House event with other Hispanic leaders, Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue said he felt “truly blessed” to have a leader like President Trump.

Soon after, liberal Hispanic political figures like Julián Castro and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter with the hashtags #Goyaway and #BoycottGoya to call for a boycott of Goya Foods. Anti-Trump Republican strategist Ana Navarro-Cárdenas also weighed in, encouraging her Twitter followers to support alternative Hispanic heritage brands like Badia and Conchita.

It is unclear what effect this will have on Goya’s popularity with Hispanic consumers or other segments; what is clear, however, is that the controversy merits a closer look at the politics of U.S. multicultural consumers.

In June 2020, Collage Group asked a nationally representative sample of over 2300 respondents where they stood on personal ideology and, for our 18+ respondents, who they intend to vote for in the presidential election this November.

And it’s the latter question that probably motivated President Trump’s meeting yesterday with Hispanic leaders like Unanue. Our research shows that multicultural consumers, including the Hispanic segment, have a decisive preference for presumptive democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Black consumers have the strongest support for Biden, with 71% intending to vote for the Democratic front-runner come November. A little over half of the Hispanic and Asian segments say they will most likely vote for Biden as well. These within-segment majorities may seem fragile, but it holds a solid lead over the mere 20 percent of Hispanic and Asian consumers who plan to vote for President Trump.

Additionally, we see no indication in our data that Hispanic Acculturation or heritage country influences these voting intentions. While Hispanic consumers of Mexican and Cuban heritage do tend to be more conservative, and those of Puerto Rican or South American heritage tend to be more liberal, these patterns do not show up in Hispanic 2020 election preferences.

This may be because most Hispanic consumers perceive the Trump Administration to have had a negative impact on their personal lives. From our most recent data on racism in the United States, we see that 70 percent of Hispanic consumers agree that discrimination against the Hispanic/Latino community has gotten worse since the 2016 election.

Overall, Hispanic consumers today tend to be less conservative, but not necessarily more liberal, than the White segment. Asian consumers as well are less likely to be conservative than White consumers, and they are also more likely to identify as moderates. The Black segment, however, is significantly more likely to identify as liberal.

So, what can brands do with this information? First, recognize that President Trump is deeply unpopular with multicultural consumers. Any signals of support for the Trump Administration threatens substantial backlash across multicultural communities. For the Hispanic community specifically, President Trump’s history of anti-Hispanic sentiment and action has turned off consumers who historically share a preference for conservative politics.

At the same time, you need to recognize that most multicultural consumers do not actively identify with liberal politics either. To best navigate the coming months, you need to identify the specific issue areas multicultural consumers want brands like you to act. 

Learn more about Collage Group’s hispanic marketing insights

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External Resources for Antiracist Education and Action

External Resources for Antiracist Education and Action
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To genuinely reflect and connect with multicultural consumers, brands need to lead by example and take meaningful action. It is no longer enough, or even acceptable, to simply communicate support and solidarity with communities of color without following through with concrete action.

But how do you get there?

We at Collage decided to roll up our sleeves and do what we know best – research. For this project we decided not only to run our own study on consumer perceptions of racism and responses to current events, but also to identify the best resources available to educate ourselves and provide valuable learnings for our membership. As part of our effort to help break the cycle of systemic racism, we compiled a collection of useful resources as a starting point for your own efforts.

The sources we found address three main areas: (1) the personal experiences of racism of America, (2) the role of systemic racism, and (3) what you can do in terms of activations and potential CSR partnerships. Collectively, these resources provide context and guidance on what you need to do as a brand to truly make an impact on combating racism.

1. Learn about racism at a personal level

Educate yourself through listening, reading, and watching things that will help you better understand the lived experience for Black people in America. NPR’s Code Switch offers a curated list of books, films, and podcasts for self-education. Here are some other great resources:

  1. PBS’s “Say It Out Loud” is a video series covering topics including Black pride, terminology, history, and pop culture.
  2. The National Museum of African American History and Culture provides guidance on how to begin talking about racism by exploring different topics like bias, being Anti-Racist, and supporting your community.
  3. Pew’s Social Trend Research on race in America helps shed some light into perceptions of and personal experiences with racism across ethnic segments.

2. Understand the history and impact of systemic racism

Our present moment has brought increased scrutiny on the role policing and the criminal justice system has played in perpetuating racism against Black Americans. The organization Mapping Police Violence  offers up to date data on police killings across the United States with a focus on these racial disparities. We at Collage came together to watch and discuss Ava Duvernay’s documentary 13th, which helps connect the dots between slavery, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration in America.

But there is much else we must address beyond criminal justice reform. Economic inequality should also be top of mind, as we see Blacks and Hispanics disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis. In a recent article by CNBC, Mellody Hobson, the -President and Co-CEO of Ariel Investments, and Ken Frazier, the Chairman and CEO of Merck, agree that leadership, job, and financially literacy programs can help rectify the economic imbalance we see today. Here are two additional helpful resources:

  1. The Urban Institute, research and policy organization, offers a collection of data and stories on structural racism.
  2. Brookings dives into the history and statistics behind the racial wealth gap, pointing out exactly how large and persistent it is. McKinsey extends this conversation with powerful insights identifying the unmet financial needs of Black individuals and families.
  3. In his article ‘The Difference Between First-Degree Racism and Third-Degree Racism’ John Rice explains different levels of structural racism. His organization, Management Leadership for Tomorrow, offers career support to youth from underrepresented communities (including Hispanic, Black, and Native American communities).

3. Take action

Now that you have some context, start thinking about what actions you can take as a brand and as a company. Keep in mind the importance of transparency and aligning your actions with your communications. Vox points out how some brands have received major backlash for putting out empty statements of solidarity. It is important to lead by example, so when it comes to taking action, think about what you need to do internally and how you can extend a helping hand locally and nationwide. Below are some examples of how companies can act:

    1. Internally: CNN Business highlights five concrete structural efforts companies can undertake to promote racial justice.
    2. Internally: Pull up for Change is a campaign that pushes brands to be more transparent about their internal diversity by asking them to release such information as their number of total black employees and their the demographics of leadership positions.
    3. Externally: Ben and Jerry’s has long been an unapologetic ally to the Black community. This post serves as an example of best-in-class activation and features some of their social justice partners.
    4. Externally: P&G’s #LetsTalkBias initiative includes short films “The Look” and “The Talk”, along with conversation guides to help drive change through community dialogue.

We sincerely hope you can dedicate time to digest these materials. Whether by yourself, within your teams at work, or even with your families and social spheres, we also hope these resources foster new conversations and willingness to leverage the tools at your disposal in the struggle against racism.

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How Multicultural Consumers Want Brands to Support Change: Consumer Response to Racism & Current Events

How Multicultural Consumers Want Brands to Support Change: Consumer Response to Racism & Current Events
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Entering the conversation on race can be an intimidating step for your brand, but in this day and age, it’s imperative. Our latest research on current events helps you unpack this topic and provides the guidance you need to take action. Fill out the form to download a sample of the study.

“Unprecedented times:” a label the world has become well-acquainted with since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. But over the past several weeks, public outcry over heinous deaths in the Black community has given new meaning to this phrase. From George Floyd, to Breonna Taylor, to Ahmaud Arbery, and more – Black lives lost at the hands of an inherently racist system have awakened America to the reality of its dark past and broken present.

To help brands understand how Americans are responding to current events and what they can do to support the drive for racial equality, we conducted a survey-based study in June 2020. Below are a few high-level insights and implications from this research. An excerpt of the study is available for download to the right.

Four things you need to know about consumers’ views on racism and related brand actions

  1. Most Americans, but especially Black and Gen Z Americans, recognize the seriousness and pervasiveness of racism in the country

The majority of each segment considers racism to be a very serious problem with Hispanic and Black Americans over-indexing. Additionally, multicultural Americans and Gen Z across segments are more likely to recognize that race impacts how people experience life in the U.S. This is evidence these segments are more in tune with the existence of implicit and systemic racism in the country.

  1. Most Americans recognize the need for significant change to address systemic racism.

Hispanic and Black Americans are more likely than White and Asian Americans to think significant change is needed to achieve racial equality across core institutions like criminal justice, politics, education, health care, and financial systems. These segments are also more likely to think diverse areas of life such as the news, beauty standards, and sports leagues need to change significantly to better reflect the needs, wants, and preferences of non-White Americans.

  1. There is now more risk in remaining silent than taking a stand.

Most consumers expect and demand that brands take a stand. In fact, more than half of all Americans, and roughly two-thirds of Black Americans, think that companies that do not take a stand against racial inequality are part of the problem. Multicultural and Gen Z consumers are more likely to purchase products from companies that make statements about and donate money to causes and organizations they care about.

  1. This time is different: You must take concrete steps beyond statements of support.

Young consumer segments that tend to skew multicultural have well-tuned bullsh*t detectors. They see right through empty promises and virtue-signaling remarks. Brands need to back up their statements of support with concrete actions that show they are serious about driving change.

For more tips on how to be a positive agent of change and details on consumer attitudes and behaviors related to racial justice and current events, download an excerpt of the study above. Contact us for more details.

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Celebrating Pride Month in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter

Celebrating Pride Month in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter
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Ongoing protests against racism and police violence in America have refocused Pride Month on its protest roots. Read on to discover how the LGBTQ+ community is engaging in support of #BlackLivesMatter.

June is Pride Month. And there is plenty for the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate – earlier this month, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that federal employment protections cover LGBTQ+ people. While only 8% of respondents to a 2019 Collage Group survey say they celebrate Pride Month regularly, this figure jumps to 18% for Gen Z. Young people are more likely than ever to be supportive of LGBTQ+ rights, and are far more likely than older generations to personally identify as LGBTQ+.

Recent years have seen ever-growing Pride Month celebrations, including parades across the world and recognition from many of the world’s biggest brands. In 2020, both the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing anti-racism protests make it impossible to celebrate Pride Month like usual. As gay rights have expanded and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community has grown, Pride Month has become something more akin to a party than a protest. This year, however, advocates encouraged people to remember that Pride has its roots in the struggle between marginalized communities, including communities of color, and the police.

On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, New York City. The patrons resisted, and protests grew violent. Stonewall attracted a diverse clientele of people across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. While the exact sequence of events is fuzzy, many credit Black and Hispanic transgender women, including activists Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Stormé DeLarverie with leading the fight that evening. LGBTQ+ people and allies from the surrounding neighborhoods flocked to join the protests, which lasted five days. The Stonewall Riots represented a turning point in the gay rights movement. Afterward, gay rights organizations and publications sprang up around the country. In 1970, the LGBTQ+ community marched through New York City on the anniversary of the riots, participating in what is widely thought of as the first Pride Parade.

Recognition of this history has led to increased activism. In our recent survey on racism and current events, we found that LGBTQ+ consumers are significantly more likely than non-LGBTQ+ consumers to have engaged in direct action in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement in recent weeks.

This segment’s activism has direct implications for brands and corporations. LGBTQ+ consumers are significantly more likely than non-LGBTQ+ consumers to believe companies have a responsibility to speak out against racism and advocate for changes in government policy.

And they are more willing to support those brands that do take a stand. 64 percent of LGBTQ+ respondents said they would be “more likely to buy products from brands and companies that take a stand against police violence,” in comparison to 47 percent of non-LGBTQ+ consumers.

If your brand wants to capture market share with the LGBTQ+ segment, remember that their fight for equality and civil rights has always existed in parallel, and often hand-in-hand, with the struggle for racial justice. That’s a strategy you can employ every month, not just in June.

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