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Four Traits That Best Characterize Millennial Consumers

Our newly updated Millennial Cultural Traits provides powerful new insights into America’s largest generation and one of its most diverse.

One in five Americans are Millennials, the generation born from 1980 through 1996.

As of 2021, this segment is now ages 24-41, with the entire generation of working age, and many now entering parenthood. To capture the growing influence and expenditures of this consumer segment, brands and marketers must deepen their understanding of Millennials.

Which Group Traits best characterize Millennials?

The four Group Traits which best characterize the Millennial segment are AmbitionGo-with-the-Flow, Cosmopolitan, and Tuned-in.

1. Ambition

People sharing the Group Trait of Ambition are driven to succeed, and to focus on the necessary steps towards achieving their goals.

These individuals are most attuned to the future impacts of their daily choices, especially when they know what might make or break their grand aspirations.

Millennials are a generation that’s been dealt a heavy hand. They’ve now lived through not one, but two economic recessions. Many came of age in a poor job market in the late 2000s, stunting their career. And on top of it all, they face rising costs such as tuition, healthcare, and housing. These circumstances have necessitated a “sink or swim” attitude, and Millennials responded by acting towards securing a better future for themselves. They’re the most educated generation to date, they’re borderline “workaholic,” and they take their side hustles seriously – all in pursuit of security.

Although Hispanic Americans firmly believe in keeping and cultivating their cultural heritage, they have had to adapt culturally as immigrants and minorities. As a result, duality is their reality—they seamlessly navigate both worlds with a cultural fluidity that is easy and authentic.

Millennials are always on the grind, so it’s important to offer them ways to be more efficient – to get even more accomplished with less time or effort.

Position your brand as a resource to help them overcome obstacles and achieve success. Celebrate Millennials’ intense dedication, something they probably don’t hear enough amidst the “lazy” and “entitled” stereotypes. And finally, remind them it’s okay to take a break, practice self-care, and treat themselves.

2. Go-with-the-Flow

People sharing the Group Trait of Go-with-the-Flow feel a resilience and contentment towards life.

These individuals are more likely to express a “ce’est la vie” attitude towards their personal situations, accepting that their fates are largely out of their own hands.

Millennials are keenly aware of the twists and turns of life. While many grew up during the booming 80s and 90s, they’ve now experienced several decades of rapid and dramatic change including the 9/11 attacks, the Great Recession of 2008, and the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing recession of 2020. Facing uncertainty is a defining factor of their lifetimes. These young Americans have learned to go with the flow of life and expect the unexpected. They’re resilient and take what life throws at them, while remaining staunchly optimistic.

At the core of it all, Millennials want empathy, so show sensitivity to their unique struggles.

Take a realistic tone when appealing to them. Encourage hope without discounting the realities of the world. And don’t be afraid to use humor to diffuse the tension – to them, this shows that you understand what they’re going through.

3. Cosmopolitan

People sharing the Group Trait of Cosmopolitan value spending time with people of diverse backgrounds and walks of life.

These individuals are more likely to seek out opportunities to engage with people from different cultural backgrounds than their own.

Millennials are an inherently diverse generation that craves novelty and wide-reaching experiences. Many Millennials seek to understand their own diverse heritage as a way to find meaning in a world that has proven unpredictable. And they welcome cultural and personal diversity in their social circles, hobbies, and activities as a way to experience the world in its full complexity.

There’s never been a better time to lean into diversity, and when you do, Millennials will be here for it!

Millennials are often known as the “experiences” generation, and much of what’s driving their thirst for adventure is a desire to experience other cultures. Whether through food, music, history, or more, give Millennials a reason to step outside the box of their everyday lives. Position your products as a way to learn about and experience other cultures.

4. Tuned-In

People sharing the Group Trait of Tuned-In want to keep up with the current cultural moment, especially when it comes to entertainment.

These individuals are more likely to seek out and participate in the latest of trends and popular culture, and to have little shame in going along with “mainstream” tastes.

Millennials—like previous generations their age—desire to be in-the-know when it comes to trends and pop culture. But unlike previous generations, Millennials grew up through the transition of unparalleled technological innovations, inciting a sense of “FOMO” (fear of missing out) and a need to keep up with their changing world. Along the way, technology offered them greater access to culture, trends, and news, spawning deep interests across a variety of topics.

Brands have ample opportunity to play in this space.

This can be as simple as building hype around brand or product news, even if it’s small, to give Millennials something to be excited about. Stay up to date on the pop culture trends Millennials are into so you can connect with them on topics they’re passionate about. And finally, repackage your content in multiple formats, like shows, podcasts, memes, and social media posts to reach Millennials through the multitude of channels they use to stay in-the-know.

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Christmas in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic
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Christmas: the most wonderful time of the year, even during a pandemic. Keep reading for stats on timeless Christmas themes to lean into this year while pivoting to the realities of COVID.

Christmas is one of the most beloved and widely celebrated holidays in America. Over three-quarters of each racial/ethnic segment celebrate it, and 73% of people view Christmas as the biggest holiday of the year.

Every year, consumers of all backgrounds traditionally ring in the holiday by spending time with loved ones, putting up festive decorations, giving gifts, and enjoying seasonal foods. And as Americans adapt to the pandemic, our research suggests they will continue to incorporate these traditional sources of comfort and joy into their holiday.

Download an excerpt of our webinar presentation, “Multicultural Holiday Behaviors During COVID – Food, Beverage, and Alcohol.”

This year, brands are leaning into core Christmas themes in COVID-relevant ways.

For instance, McCormick reminds viewers that even if you can’t get together with your family this year, “their dishes can still make it to the table.” And Lowe’s emphasizes the importance of home as a central part of our lives. This year especially, with so much time spent at home, Lowe’s highlights home decorating as a gift that “brings joy to all.”

These core consumer Christmas values won’t be abandoned just because the circumstances have changed. You can, and should, still activate against these themes. But keep in mind that you also need to know how things are different to understand where and how to tweak messaging.

Our recent data gives us insight on the shifts you can expect to see in consumer attitudes and behaviors as they modify their plans to celebrate the holiday safely. Consider these high-level consumer trends as you prepare your final holiday push for maximum impact.

1. Consumers will celebrate in 2020, but celebrate differently.

2 in 5 consumers expect that the pandemic will prevent them from carrying out their usual Christmas plans. That may mean abstaining from large family gatherings, nixing travel plans, or forgoing festive outings.

Continue to activate on core Christmas themes like family – but do so in a way that’s relevant during the pandemic. For instance, recent holiday spots by Etsy and Chewy feature family members opening presents with one another over video chat.

Alternatively, shake things up by leaning into the probability that the pandemic will likely create new activities and traditions. Show how your product or service can inspire new ways to celebrate because of the pandemic. For instance a recent spot by Maker’s Mark features roommates getting together to decorate their fire escape with Christmas lights, then huddling outside on it to watch a virtual fireplace on their TV while sipping cups of holiday cheer. Or illustrate how new quarantine activities can inspire Christmas gift ideas this year, like Best Buy.

2. Consumers prioritize convenience and safety for holiday shopping this year.

With no end to the pandemic in sight, consumers are modifying holiday shopping habits as they seek convenience and safety. Many are looking for contactless options: 67% of people say they’ll probably shop online more for the holidays this year.

Telling people how they can shop online for your products needs to be central to your campaign. For example, Walmart recently debuted a heartwarming and relatable spot highlighting everything we now buy online these days to cope with the pandemic. And Sam’s Club customers can take a virtual tour of the Griswold “Christmas Vacation” house as they shop the festive décor and gifts Sam’s Club offers.

3. Many people are still struggling financially as a result of the pandemic and economic recession.

Half of all Americans worry that they can’t afford holiday shopping this year.

Show sensitivity towards your customers by offering extended discounts. For instance, Target and Home Depot are offering Black Friday deals all season long. Additionally, signal that you care by supporting vulnerable communities financially or through donated goods. Amazon, recently announced plans to donate to over 1,000 charities to support communities hit hardest by the events this year. And Visa encourages consumers to shop local this holiday season and give back to the small businesses at the heart of their communities.

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2020 Holiday Consumer Behavior: Thanksgiving in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic
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The coronavirus pandemic is fundamentally changing how American consumers gather for Thanksgiving and shop on Black Friday this year. Read on for insight into the consumer mindset and advice on how to best position your brand for success in this untraditional holiday season.

Thanksgiving. The word immediately calls to mind iconic images of Americana: roast turkey, family gatherings, football, the Macy’s Day parade. But Thanksgiving isn’t just a truly American holiday—it’s also one of the most celebrated! Our research from 2019 revealed that 84% of Americans regularly celebrate Thanksgiving, making it the second most celebrated holiday for Americans after Christmas. White and Black consumers are most likely to celebrate, while Hispanic and Asian celebration rates are lower, perhaps due to members of these segments that have recently immigrated and not yet adopted the holiday.

Thanksgiving is normally a popular occasion for Americans to travel and reunite with family and friends. Last year more than 26 million airline passengers were screened by the TSA during the week of Thanksgiving. And a survey we ran in 2019 revealed that 59% of Americans reported typically celebrating Thanksgiving with extended family, while 40% reported celebrating with friends.

But this year, nothing is normal. When we surveyed consumers in August 2020, 44% already expected the COVID-19 pandemic would interfere with their normal Thanksgiving plans. Since then, coronavirus cases and fatalities in the United States have risen dramatically.

Another survey we fielded in September 2020 found that only 19% of American adults reported feeling safe travelling on commercial airplanes. And the CDC recently issued official guidelines recommending that people stay close to home and only gather with immediate family members on Thanksgiving to lower the chances of spreading the virus. These fears are not unfounded. In October, Canadian officials linked rising case numbers all over the country to Canadian Thanksgiving celebrations

The coronavirus pandemic will likely result in a larger number of small Thanksgiving gatherings across the United States. And this means that many Americans—perhaps 18%—will be cooking their own Thanksgiving meals for the first time. Despite these changes, many other aspects of Thanksgiving 2020 will look the same as any other year. 

For example, the top things that people associate with Thanksgiving (spending time with family, eating delicious foods, cooking, baking, and watching football) are still possible, in some form, during the pandemic. And maintaining these traditions will likely be a welcome reminder of more normal times.

Brands can use these challenges to connect with consumers. McCormick’s new ad does this by showing how their products help create a sense of togetherness and ensure success despite separation. They encourage people to cook their relatives’ signature dishes as a way to be together. And they use the image of a young woman fumbling with a turkey—an inexperienced Thanksgiving cook—to remind viewers that “it’s gonna be great” despite the challenges

Thanksgiving is also a crucial time of year for brands because of Black Friday and the beginning of the holiday shopping season. This is yet another aspect of American life that will look different in 2020. According to recent research, two thirds of consumers plan to shop online more for the holidays this year, while 60% plan to put off shopping until it’s absolutely necessary.

Brands and stores have already begun to adjust their Black Friday campaigns in expectation of untraditional shopping patterns.

A common move is to expand your online strategy well beyond Cyber Monday as consumers fear shopping in crowded stores. For example, Target and other retailers are advertising that all deals are available both in-store and online. Retailers are also fighting against consumers’ instinct to hold off on shopping by offering Black Friday deals throughout November.

Unfortunately, about half of consumers are worried they won’t be able to afford holiday shopping this year. Brands can activate on this moment by showing how their products can figure in homemade or low-cost gifts. For example, Ashley Home Store released a commercial showing two children who make their parents a simple dinner and decorate the table with homemade decorations. The parents love it! And with the slogan, “celebrate the magic of home,” Ashley Home Store is also subtly reminding people of the importance of staying home and safe during the pandemic. Similarly, Ross advertises their Christmas bargains by saying, “you don’t have to spend a lot to give a lot to the ones who mean the most.” By offering extended sales, brands can also show they recognize the economic challenges many are now facing.

This Thanksgiving and Black Friday will look different than those past. But that doesn’t mean marketing is out. Brands can still connect with consumers by activating on tried and true themes and reminding people they understand the challenges they face.

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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 CultureRate:Brand 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 CultureRate:Brand 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 CultureRate:Brand 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 CultureRate:Brand 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!
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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.

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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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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Engaging Gen Z and Millennials in a Time of Crisis
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Learn how the current pandemic is affecting Gen Z and Millennials and how you can connect with them both now and in the future. Fill out the form to unlock more GenYZ and Millennial Insights.

Five months in and 2020 is already proving to be a year of unprecedented change: the COVID-19 pandemic, an emerging recession, and a high-stakes election.

Now more than ever, brands and companies need to understand and stay connected and relevant with Gen Z and Millennials. These are the insights you need to connect with these young consumers now and throughout the rest of the year.

COVID-19 has forced all of us to reconsider how we interact with the world. The uncertainty about how the crisis will evolve and impact us – both as individuals and as a society – has left us without guiderails for how to plan for next month, let alone past 2020. No one can predict the future, but we must be ready for whatever comes next, whenever it comes.

We at Collage have done our best to assess this situation and provide you with answers to three key questions:

1.     How will COVID-19 impact young consumers in the near and medium term?

2.     How can brands, companies, and other organizations connect with young consumers right now?

3.     How can brands, companies, and other organizations connect with young consumers beyond the pandemic?

The Emerging Recession Will Likely Have Serious Long-Term Effects for Millennial and Gen Z Consumers

Make no mistake: economic downturns have an especially harsh impact on young consumers. For example, peak and average unemployment rates during the Great Recession were much higher for people ages 25-35 than for older segments. And with May 2020 national unemployment numbers expected to reach as high as 20%, we can expect young Americans – who are more likely to be employed in industries directly impacted by social distancing – to feel the brunt of the current slowdown.

The recession isn’t just a short-term issue—negative economic effects from recessions often linger for young people, such as stagnant wages, low levels of savings, and delayed life milestones. We saw this with older Millennials after the Great Recession.

Since the current picture for Gen Z looks a lot like that for Millennials during the Great Recession, it’s safe to assume they too will feel lingering effects of this recession for many years. And Millennials, facing their second economic disaster in two decades, will likely suffer again. But a scary economic outlook for young segments does not mean that brands should shift their marketing efforts away from Millennials and Gen Z.

Millennial and Gen Z consumers will continue to represent an ever-growing share of your target markets.  No consumer brand can afford to abandon these young segments now, no matter what happens in the near term. Their loyalty will be responsible for powering your return to normal growth in the recovery and beyond. It is in your immediate and long-term interest to let Gen Z and Millennial consumers know you are on their side during these difficult times.

Below are two insights from our recent genYZ study (attached above) that help you understand how to let young consumers know you value them and are on their side.

Young Consumers Want Brands to Be Practical, Not Preachy

About 4 in 5 consumers believe that brands have a responsibility to step up in response to COVID-19. Overall, consumers consider donating medical supplies and donating products and services to people in need to be the two most valuable actions brands can take response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Young consumers, in particular, respond well to brands that take well-rounded approaches to helping the community, their customers, and their employees.

If you decide to put out messaging around COVID-19, you need to make sure it speaks to the lived realities of your audience. Feel-good messages will fall on deaf ears in communities that feel like their tragedies are not being taken seriously. Young people are especially attuned to false or empty messaging. They want to see organizations put their money where their mouth is and take concrete action on issues of activism and community welfare.

 

Financial Stress, Inclusion, and Environmental Sustainability Remain Concerns

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into sharp relief other major concerns distinctly felt by young consumers. Rising unemployment feeds into longstanding and widespread concerns of not having enough money to keep up with monthly expenses. Disproportionate access to public and private resources reminds consumers of all the ways racism, sexism, and homophobia still influence societal outcomes. And seeing the effects of quarantine on air and water quality around the globe highlights the effect human activity has on global climate change and our environment.
These are issues that most Americans, but particularly young segments, are passionate about! Activating around these issues is an efficient and effective way to build and maintain resonance as the COVID-19 crisis evolves and consumer mindset shifts to the 2020 election and beyond.

Fill out the form and download the presentation to learn more about key issues facing today’s young consumers and how to activate on the topics they care about.

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Economic Projections and Spending Shifts During COVID-19
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Collage Group members have been asking two central questions as we head into the new economic reality of COVID-19.  

First, how can we forecast the economic impact of COVID-19 on the US economy and how will it impact different consumer segments?  Can we learn anything from the Great Recession?  And second, how are consumers reacting in each major category?  Will they trade-down to low price brands?  Will they defend certain categories of spend?

As part of our ongoing research into the impacts of COVID-19, we revised how we model our annually revised ten-year forecast and deployed our third COVID-19 survey to understand where consumers are making trade-offs.  More detail is included in the attached download and webinar playback, as well as in detailed category playbooks released last week.  Our top conclusions follow:

Fill out the form to download an excerpt of our Hispanic consumer insights.

Conclusion 1: Multicultural consumers matter even more in a downturn than in good times.

Modeling the effect of the COVID-19 on the economy will occupy the minds of the world’s greatest economists for some time to come. While we have no skin in that game, we do have a perspective on forecasting efforts.

Comparing the guaranteed population growth of the multicultural segments to the negligible or even negative populution growth of the white segment virtually guarantees that these segments will increase in relative importance to the white population. This means that even as total expenditure and median multicultural household can decline precipitously in a recession, the multicultural share of expenditure can only grow.  The chart below shows what happened in the last recession and what would happen by 2025 if the impact of COVID on the economy exactly mirrors the Great Recession.

The real issue is not how deep or severe the impact will be, but how long it will last.  And how long it will last is a product of the financial support consumers need to weather the storm and how comfortable they will feel about resuming normal life in more densely crowded environments (effectively a proxy for mitigating factors such as a social distancing, therapies for COVID-19, a vaccine, etc).

Check out our custom solutions “Size of Prize” analysis for more detail about how to apply our modeling work to your proprietary brand and category needs.

Comparing the guaranteed population growth of the multicultural segments to the negligible or even negative populution growth of the white segment virtually guarantees that these segments will increase in relative importance to the white population. This means that even as total expenditure and median multicultural household can decline precipitously in a recession, the multicultural share of expenditure can only grow.  The chart below shows what happened in the last recession and what would happen by 2025 if the impact of COVID on the economy exactly mirrors the Great Recession.

Conclusion #2: Consumers are revealing a remarkable level of optimism and resilience in the face of this crisis.

In our recent survey of states of mind, consumers are certainly revealing high levels of stress, but also indicate a deeper focus on self-care and on healthier eating.

Conclusion #3: Consumers across race and ethnicity are making very different brand choices across  categories.

Asian consumers will be more likely to focus on quality – which is an opportunity to promote superior features and benefits or some premium brands.  White consumers will stick with brands they know they like, while Multiculturals in general reveal a greater willingness to defect to a different brand.  Hispanics in particular will be trading-down to low cost brands almost across the board.  Indeed Hispanics will only be defending spend on groceries and perhaps home care.

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The First Deep-Dive into Consumer Behavior in the Time of COVID-19
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We are now more than a month into the new normal of the COVID pandemic. Buying patterns have been massively disrupted, millions have lost their jobs with panic buying affecting many categories while others have nearly collapsed.

When it comes to multicultural segments in particular, a few things stand out.  First, culture is a significant determinant of human behavior in this crisis and therefore understanding cultural variation is critical.  Who is stocking up more or less?  Who is listening to influencers more than news and vice versa?  These are questions brands need answers to.

Second, the growth rate of the multicultural population and expenditure in good times is important, but in bad times, that growth rate is critical.  From our scenario modeling, we have seen there is virtually no chance of brand growth in a downturn without successfully activating multicultural consumers.

And finally, multicultural influence on the general population only increases every day.  For brands, that means that building trust and cultural relevance with these segments creates cross-over effects that drive demand across all segments, especially younger white segments.

To successfully address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities, brands need to understand how culture is intersecting with the current climate to alter attitudes, behaviors, and receptivity to support and outreach.

With this end in mind, Collage Group fielded a study during the last week of March to provide members insights into the attitudes and behaviors of different cultural groups—racial, ethnic, and generational segments—during this time of crisis and uncertainty.   We covered attitudes, COVID mitigation behaviors, employment and finances, buying patterns, time spend, general behaviors and expected future behaviors.

Read below for four top findings from the research. 

Key takeaways

    1. Most people recognize the seriousness of the disease and don’t need to be scared into action.
    2. Avoid alarmist messaging. Remain fact-based and compassionate. Messaging should recognize that people are doing what they can, but can do even more to ensure success.
    3. Hispanic consumers are overwhelmingly feeling the economic impact. And Millennials—a group that has already experienced significant economic hardships due to student loans and the Great Recession—are bracing for more disappointment.
    4. Tell consumers how your brand will support them during these hard times. Offer coupons, extended free trials, etc.  Let them know that you know they’re struggling. This is the time to build connections and trust that can last for years.
    5. Black consumers are more likely than other groups to have bought more food, beverages, personal goods and household goods since the start of the pandemic.
    6. Understand which segments are changing behavior; who to target right now is as important as how to market.
    7. Everyone is spending more time on social media and streaming platforms, but this amplifies the differences in information people receive.  Note that younger consumers, especially younger multicultural consumers use different channels for getting information, relying more on influencers than the news.
    8. Build a culturally fluent channel strategy.  More than ever, brands need to show up in the places where segments retreat into their preferred media bubbles.

Please contact us to learn how our COVID pandemic research can benefit your brand.

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