Pulse Check on Multicultural Health Care Consumers

Pulse Check on Multicultural Health Care Consumers
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Multicultural and generationally diverse Americans express unique health-related values, preferences, and desires.

These include valuing health insurance for different reasons, preferring specific types of benefits over others, desiring health care providers that understand and respect their culture and background, and leaning on different resources when experiencing health issues and seeking support.

Health care organizations—payers, providers, and related companies—need to understand the many ways multicultural and generationally diverse consumers differ in order to successfully capture their attention through marketing, provide products and services that ensure they will remain “brand” loyal, and manage their care in a way that leads to optimal health outcomes. Our research provides insight into diverse health care consumers from five angles:

1. How do consumers choose a health insurance plan?

2. How well do consumers understand their health insurance plans?

3. How do consumers select a health care provider?

4. How do consumers make medical decisions?

5. How do consumers engage in health outside the clinic setting?

Below are two key insights and action steps to aid your strategy to engage with and win-over multicultural health care consumers:

1. Populations that may have immigrated more recently – Unacculturated Hispanic and Asian Americans – are the least likely to understand their insurance plans. Double down on providing resources for segments who may have language barriers or a general lack of understanding of the U.S. health care system.

2. While most people prefer to communicate with their health insurer by phone, multicultural and younger consumers are most likely to utilize digital channels. Make sure live CSR’s are available to assist over the phone with plan-specific questions, and continue to market your digital channels, focusing on their value and ease of use, to realize the efficiency they offer.

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What Brands Need To Know About the LGBTQ+ Community

What Brands Need To Know About the LGBTQ+ Community
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Fill out the form to download an excerpt from, “What Brands Need to Know About the LGBTQ+ Community”.

The LGBTQ+ community in America is young, fast-growing, and diverse. And it should be part of every brand’s growth strategy! Dive into our research for strategic insights on what makes this group unique and how you can connect with them to drive brand growth.

But it’s not enough to put rainbows on your advertisements and call it a day. LGBTQ+ consumers and their allies expect brands to back up their words with relevant donations, year-round support, and equality in internal company policy. And they need activations that feel authentic.

To help our members better understand and connect with the LGBTQ+ segment, we’ve created a study that leverages data from 2019 and 2020 Collage Group syndicated research initiatives, broken down by LGBTQ+ status and age groups. The centerpiece is our Cultural Attributes Profile, built from a dataset of almost 1,200 LGBTQ+ consumers!

We start off with some basic demographics of the segment, followed by their unique Cultural Attributes Profile. This profile reveals how they score on important characteristics including: anxiety, rootedness, exceptionalism, independence, adventurousness, and compliance. Then, we look at the LGBTQ+ segment’s influence profile, and specific social issues the group feels strongly about. Finally, our study concludes with a section on tips and takeaways for marketing to the LGBTQ+ segment. Below are three takeaways to get you started.

It’s no secret that America is quickly becoming more and more diverse. One fast-growing group is the LGBTQ+ community. Estimates show this segment includes at least 12 million American adults. And as laws change and societal acceptance increases, more and more people feel comfortable embracing their LGBTQ+ identities and are raising their hands to be counted. And they have money to spend – over $917 billion in purchasing power in 2017!

When you factor in LGBTQ+ allies—Americans that support the drive for greater LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance—the market size and spending balloon. Any brand that wants to succeed in 21st Century America needs to understand who these people are and how to connect with them.

Key takeaways include:

  1. The U.S. LGBTQ+ segment will continue to grow in both size and share of total population as society becomes more accepting of differing gender and sexual identities. Growth will be greatest among younger consumers who feel more comfortable self-identifying as LGBTQ+.

  2. LGBTQ+ consumers, across both the New Wave (18-39 years old) and 40+ segments, are similar in their core values to the New Wave as a whole. This is a result of New Wave consumers growing up in an inherently diverse society which celebrates and embraces once-marginalized identities.

  3. As LGBTQ+ stories and influencers captivate U.S. audiences, members and allies of this segment have higher expectations for authentic representations of LGBTQ+ individuals and content. This may result in accusations of “pinkwashing” when brands fail to meet these expectation

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Measuring the Cultural Fluency of Brands: Media, Telecom, and Sports Leagues

Cultural Fluency Product Spotlight: Apple Music
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Our recent BrandRate study tested the cultural resonance of 47 media and telecom brands and sports leagues.

One of our key findings from this study is that many media brands fail to resonate with multiple cultural segments. This is likely due to the highly saturated media space (there are 1,000s of channels to choose from) and the fact that many channels are targeted to specific segments and don’t aim for total market appeal. Nevertheless, there were a few brands that did resonate widely like the streaming music service Apple Music. This brand did very well across Multicultural segments.

Why does Apple Music perform so well with Multicultural consumers?

One reason Apple music performs so well with multicultural consumers is because of high brand trust. When you look at the different components broken down on the chart below, you’ll notice that all segments rank Apple Music around or above average on trust. This makes sense: Apple is a well-regarded brand with huge name recognition and is known as a pioneer in the digital music industry. When Apple launched the Apple Music service in 2015, they already had a reputation for quality music products from iPod and iTunes – Apple Music was the next logical product. And it looks like they’ve been able to maintain and extend their users’ trust with this high-quality music service.

To view the full report, please fill out the form below.

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Measuring the Cultural Fluency of Ads: Alcoholic Beverages

Measuring the Cultural Fluency of Heineken
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In this AdRate study we had the opportunity to test a recent ad by Heineken, “Connections”. The ad reflects how people can stay connected to one another while quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic. And it touches on the ups and downs of physically-distanced socializing. The ad was a hit! It resonated across all multicultural consumer segments — Hispanic, Black, and Asian — with an A-CFQ score of 75 or higher for each group.

Screenshot of Heineken Advertisement,

From Heineken’s Advertisement, “Connections”.

One interesting insight about this advertisement is that all of the ad elements (music, characters, story, and visuals) struck a chord with viewers. 

It’s not often that we see this kind of  balance among ad features. So this indicates there’s harmony going on in the ad where all the elements play into each other nicely. Achieving harmony among ad elements is an important step in guarding against viewer confusion, an emotional response that can harm an ad’s performance.

Another point worth noting is that this ad was seen as highly relatable.  Remember, it’s about both the ups and downs of socializing while physically distanced. It features themes such as connecting remotely with loved ones and the inevitable tech troubles that I’m sure we’ve all experienced by now. It functions as a reassuring reminder that we’re all in this together — nobody’s wifi or at-home setup is perfect, things kinda suck at times, but we can still kick back with a beer and connect with friends.

Graph showing that Heineken's advertisement elements are well-balanced and relatable
Chart showing high word-of-mouth metrics among viewiers

Our AdRate metrics indicate that Heineken’s ad was seen as both relatable and enjoyable. 68% of viewers felt like this ad was for them. This was above the ad set norm of 60%, making Heineken’s ad the number one relatable ad we tested. 75% of viewers enjoyed the ad. The norm was pretty high for this set at 71%. Even so, this ad raises the bar coming in at number three. And then for both of our metrics that point to an ad’s ability to drive word of mouth influence – talking about the ad with others and reacting to the ad on social media – Heineken’s ad captures over half of viewers. Again, over-indexing compared to the ad set norm, making it the number two most share-worthy ad of the set.

Finally, Heineken’s ad did an excellent job of eliciting positive emotions, likely an effect of it being a highly relatable and clear feel-good ad in the middle of tough times. The ad outperformed most alcoholic beverage ads in evoking happiness – at 49%, it’s far above the norm! And Asian and White viewers over-index, feeling especially happy watching this ad.

Graph showing happy, excited, and proud as highest reported reactions to the ad

We’re constantly conducting AdRate and BrandRate studies for our members that subscribe to the Latinum (multicultural research) and genYZ (generational research) platforms . If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of being a member, please fill out the contact form below.

Don’t forget to save a spot at the next Collage Group virtual webinar! Visit the events page for more details and registration. 

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Understanding Hispanic Consumer Preferences for Food & Dining

Understanding Hispanic Consumer Preferences for Food & Dining
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Is your brand effectively appealing to the culinary and dining preferences and passions of Hispanic consumers? Food plays an important role in cultural identity among Hispanics. It combines historic flavors with current trends, creating a source of cultural pride and connection.

In our webinar, Hispanic Passions for Food & Dining, we highlight key findings on Hispanic American food preferences and passions, calling out six key insights:

  1. Food is the #1 passion point for Hispanic consumers.
  2. Two in five consumers are strict healthy eaters.
  3. Hispanics are more skeptical of packaged foods, especially frozen foods.
  4. When it comes to prepared or fast food, Hispanics prefer convenience over fresh, but stick with authenticity.
  5. Hispanic Americans are more likely to choose less sugary options.
  6. Hispanics, like Asians, place high value on authentic cooking.

Fill out the form to learn more in the webinar replay.

We had a lot of great questions from webinar attendees and called upon our food experts to provide a deeper explanation. Director of Product and Content Bryan Miller and Senior Analyst Connor Wahrman weigh in below.

What do you think makes food a top passion point for Hispanic consumers?

Bryan: Some of our newest research further confirms that many Hispanics in the U.S. tend to be experience-seeking. Food is an area where we see this appear frequently. Further, for many Hispanics, food is a way to connect with culture and heritage. This does vary a bit by acculturation; a more detailed breakdown is available in our member platform. Importantly, most segments see food as a top passion point, except younger segments. For example, in Gen Z consumers we’ve seen more functional in eating habits/preferences.

Are Hispanic consumers interested in food delivery services: UberEats, Instacart, Amazon Fresh, etc.? Do they see these services as more convenient? Less fresh?

Connor: Our research shows that Hispanic consumers are most likely to integrate technology into their shopping. They use mobile devices to aid in in-store shopping and are most interested in curbside pickup services and secure drop-off locations.

Do you have suggestions on how to position my brand to leverage experiential eating, particularly during the pandemic?

Bryan: Try highlighting new and interesting ways that your product can be used… Think about sharing recipes online and/or promoted through social media. People are at home, online more, and cooking more; give them an excuse to try something new with your products.

Connor: Also, consider shifting the focus from “exciting eating” to “authentic cooking” experiences. Work to identify ways to make authentic, fresh food more accessible to consumers through DIY opportunities. For example, do for food/cooking what Netflix is doing with “watch parties.”

With the current economic system, how are Hispanic food purchasing behaviors/preferences impacted?

Connor: Hispanic consumers are most price-sensitive when it comes to food products compared to other segments, so they are most willing to sacrifice quality and brand loyalty considerations as economic conditions continue to stagnate/decline.

What are the key differences by generation? Is there anything that stands out for Gen Z, specifically?

Bryan: In general, we see Gen Z (especially younger Gen Z) tending to be more functional eaters. We suspect this is an age effect and that the attitudes will shift as they age. Shifts will likely stem from beginning to cook more, having more choice about what they eat (right now parents may be choosing), and having more disposable income.

Fill out the form above to access the webinar replay and contact us with additional questions, or for more information about our syndicated online research and custom capabilities.

Measuring the Cultural Fluency of Brands: Personal Care

Measuring the Cultural Fluency of Personal Brands: Fenty Beauty
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Which beauty brands appeal to multicultural consumers?

Our most recent BrandRate study shows how young multicultural segments rank Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, which accumulated nearly $570 million in revenue within 15 months of launching in late 2017. Now worth $17 billion, Fenty Beauty reigns as one of the most gender and skin-tone inclusive makeup brands on the market.

Did Fenty Beauty receive a high B-CFQ ranking among multicultural consumers?

The table below shows the percent of each segment that agrees with each of the six components (Relevance and Trust, for example) of our Brand Cultural Fluency Quotient (B-CFQ). We see trends both across segment lines (rows) and across specific components (columns). Acculturated, bicultural, and Black consumers over-index on five of the six components, while White consumers under-index on four of six components.

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Brands that receive a high-ranking B-CFQ scorecard are considered to be culturally fluent, and are more likely than other brands to sustain continuous market growth. Low-ranking B-CFQ scorecards reveal new opportunities for brands to strengthen resonance with young multicultural consumers.

If you’re interested in measuring the cultural fluency of your brand, please fill out the contact form below. 

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The Top 7 Most Culturally Fluent Brands of 2020

The Top 7 Most Culturally Fluent Brands of 2020
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American consumers are experiencing a cultural transformation of unprecedented scope and scale. The pressure is on to rethink marketing with a focus on authentic connections that tap into culture, identity and emotion. This rapidly evolving landscape requires a new approach to assessing and building brands, centered on what we refer to as Cultural Fluency.

Fill out the form to instantly access a recording of the webinar from August 5th, 2020.

What makes a brand culturally fluent?

Cultural fluency is the ability to use culture to efficiently and effectively connect across consumer segments. Culturally fluent brands:

    1. Are culturally resonant across multiple segments: Hispanic (acculturated, unacculturated and bicultural), Black, Asian and White.
    2. Deliver authentic cultural expressions.
    3. Make culture a core component of their strategic approach.

Acculturated Hispanic: More likely to use English across language contexts, and to identify as American over Hispanic

Bicultural Hispanic: More likely to use a mix of English and Spanish across language contexts, and to identify as both American and Hispanic

Unacculturated Hispanic: More likely to use Spanish across language contexts, and to identify as Hispanic over American

Based on more than 10 years of research into multicultural America, Collage Group has developed a unique way to measure the cultural fluency of brands through our proprietary BrandRate metric. We begin by ranking brands on our Brand Cultural Fluency Quotient (B-CFQ), and then decomposing the metric to explore how key features drive B-CFQ. The metric assesses cultural resonance along six dimensions selected from a process of pilot studies where we tested more than 20 measures.

Since our launch of BrandRate this spring during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve surveyed more than 10,000 consumers to evaluate about 300 brands. Our demographic focus is on the New Wave, 18-to-39-year-old consumers across all race and ethnicities. This segment of consumers includes Millennials and older Gen Zs who were the first generation to be diverse, and whose experiences led them to expect diversity in their friendships, daily interactions, education, media and marketing.

During the past four months, we’ve evaluated brands across more than seven industries including: alcoholic beverage, food, home care, personal care, automotive, retail, quick service restaurants (QSR), and select apparel, financial services and technology “reference” brands. More will be added across the rest of the year.

To help marketers and brand managers set aspirations, we’re pleased to share our first snapshot, including the top seven most culturally fluent brands, as well as two additional brands. 

Two powerful observations from this initial analysis:

    1. Six of the seven to brands have built strong reputations with one or more multicultural groups, whose resonance with the brand exceeds that of the white consumer.
    2. None of the brands have low scores in any one component score across demographics that is overcome by high scores in another, a characteristic more common in lower ranked brands.

Our rankings thus far reveal where top brands derive their strengths and offer evidence for the success of recent campaigns and strategies. Our members are now using BrandRate data on their own brands to identify learning gaps they can close with insights from existing syndicated research or from commissioning custom research projects. 

The Top 7 Most Culturally Fluent Brands of 2020:

    1. Lysol: No other brand has brand trust scores higher than 90% across three multicultural segments, and it’s no surprise that they are a brand leader amidst the current pandemic. Lysol was one of the first brands to be approved for use in protecting against the spread of COVID-19. The brand specifically ranks highly among Black and both unacculturated and acculturated Hispanic consumers.
    2. Clorox: Another brand uniquely positioned in the pandemic environment, Clorox is performing well above other brands when it comes to shared values. The brand is specifically appealing to bicultural and unacculturated Hispanic consumers and is well-positioned for sustained growth.
    3. Google: While performance is near-uniform across racial and ethnic segments, one area they have hit the mark is on Shared Values with Black consumers. This is likely a win from their “Black Girl Magic” campaign celebrating the influence of Black women and girls that began in Spring 2019.
    4. Amazon: Amazon over-indexes on all six dimensions within the Bicultural Hispanic community. The CEO of Amazon’s competitor, Target, offers interesting insight into their experience of losing share among Hispanics, which is that Amazon better supports a rise in cocooning within this segment.
    5. Hershey’s: The iconic American brand ranks highly in all six dimensions among unacculturated Hispanic consumers, specifically in sparking positive memories. During the past five years, Hershey’s has heavily invested in Mexico as part of the company’s growth plan – a likely reason for resonance among this audience.
    6. Dove: While the brand scores are relatively even across the board, Dove receives notably high ratings among bicultural Hispanics. Contributing to this ranking are the recent campaigns inspiring Hispanic women to celebrate their own definition of beauty.
    7. Tide: Performs high among Asian consumers across all six dimensions. On suspect this is related to the “Loads of Hope” campaign, where the brand offers free laundry services. During COVID-19, the campaign has offered free laundry services for first responders; Asian Americans represent 17% of doctors in the U.S.

When considering your multicultural marketing strategy, you may be asking yourself, “Is there a particular demographic that can take my brand to the next level? A segment that could be a standout for brand loyalty and advocacy?”

The answer: Strength with one or more multicultural demographics is more typical of high performing brands than strength with White consumers. Indeed, our research has shown that tailoring marketing to Black and Hispanic consumers has significant crossover effects to White and Asian consumers.

We look forward to continuing our research and providing actionable insights for brands based on our B-CFQ findings. Our BrandRate meta-analysis planned for release this fall will take these findings to the next level, and we look forward to sharing them with you. Watch the webinar replay at the form above and contact us for more details.

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Get on Top of 2020’s Hottest Upcoming genYZ Trend: Voting!

Get on Top of 2020’s Hottest Upcoming genYZ Trend: Voting!
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The 2018 U.S. midterm elections saw a dramatic increase in voter participation for younger generations. Here’s what brands and companies need to know about Millennial and Gen Z voter turnout to build consumer equity through the 2020 election and beyond.

We’re less than 100 days from the 2020 presidential election. Over the past weeks, we’ve heard many of our members ask what they can do to best activate on this major, and majorly controversial, occasion.  Our answer? Get out the vote.

Recent work by researchers at the Harvard Kennedy School reveals how leading brands have approached voter participation initiatives as part of a strategy for “meeting consumer expectations for engagement in social and political issues, raising brand awareness with new audiences, and increasing employee satisfaction.” In 2020, Gen Z and Millennial consumers will be at the heart of this strategy.

It has long been the conventional wisdom that younger Americans are less likely to vote than retirees who have fewer pressures on their time. But if you take a closer look at the data, a different story emerges – younger consumers value voting more than older generations did at their age.

Just look at voter participation rates. Comparing turnout in the first midterm and presidential elections for Gen X (1990 and 1988), Millennials (2006 and 2004), and Gen Z (2018 and predicted for 2020), we see a clear upward trend. While only 23 percent of eligible Gen X and Millennial consumers voted in their first midterms, 30 percent of Gen Z did. And Collage Group research estimates that at least 59 percent of eligible Gen Z consumers will cast their ballots in 2020, a significant majority compared to previous generations.

But the generational gap persists, which offers an opportunity for brands to step in and make a tangible difference. Only a slim majority of Millennials (51%) voted in the 2016 presidential election, with even fewer voting in 2018 (42%)

What does this all mean for brands and companies? If you want younger consumers to recognize your efforts in promoting social causes, voting must be top of mind. There are plenty of organizations you can partner with and support to accomplish this goal, including:

As part of either these strategic partnerships or your own campaigns, you need to be able to communicate effectively with youth consumers on the issues that matter to them. Out of the box thinking is needed to connect with potential voters who have not already been convinced by the existing messages thrown their way, and brands can take the lead in pushing for such innovation.

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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The Multicultural Growth Opportunity: 2020 Update

The multicultural population in the United States is transforming American culture. For the first time, the white population registered negative growth across the last five years of available data, meaning Multiculturals are now driving OVER 100% of growth and a major share of expenditure growth.

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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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