A startling shift is changing the demographics of the world’s most important market. 2012 is the first year in history that non-Hispanic white births in the United States will no longer be the majority.
According to The New York Times, “in the latest sign of the nation’s shifting racial and ethnic composition, births to Asian, black and Hispanic women in the United States are on the verge of surpassing births to non-Hispanic whites.”
While “the Census Bureau estimates that minorities will constitute a majority of the nation’s overall population in about three decades and a majority of Americans under age 18 in about one decade, since 2000 alone the proportion of people under age 20 who are non-Hispanic whites has dipped to 57%, from 61%. In fact, in 2008 Asian, black and Hispanic children made up 47% of the population under five.”
Why all this dry demographic talk? Because the handwriting is on the wall and the message is clear — marketers who don’t adapt to the new demographic reality will see their market share decline right along with the country’s general market birthrates.
Please don’t kick yourself for not noticing. How many people caught in the wave of history see what’s going on? There’s a reason why hindsight is 20/20. There’s a reason why the words should’ve, would’ve and could’ve are usually accompanied by a Three Stooges’ slap to the forehead. And there’s a reason why you should reconsider how you’re reaching your audiences.
Don’t look at things the way they were and wonder why. Learn to look at things the way they’re going to be and wonder where. As in, Where’s The Future (WTF)?
After all, if minorities accounted for 48% of all births in the U.S. in the 12 months that ended in July 2008, then business as usual is no longer business as usual. And if your marketing hasn’t changed to reach these new consumers then you’re talking to ghosts. Specifically, the ghosts of markets past.
By the way, before you think this is only a domestic phenomenon, major demographic changes are occurring in all of the Americas. Looking south we find Latin America in the middle of a renaissance. In direct contrast to what is going on in much of the rest of the world, LatAm’s economy is soaring. Mexico and the 19 countries of Central and South America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean (not including Cuba) are seeing year over year economic growth. And for the first time in history, this growth is not simply due to the exploitation of natural resources but to the rise of the middle class.
For the first time ever this demographics’ purchasing power is surpassing that of the upper classes. The Miami Herald says, “…many countries have built up their international reserves and continued their economic reforms. With more people entering the middle class and increasing consumption, Latin American economies have more of a cushion to sustain themselves during a rough patch.” And according to The Economist, “…the region’s economy will again expand by more than 5%. Economic growth is growing hand in hand with social progress.”
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that because these new consumers represent a formerly minority demographic that minority marketing techniques are the right tools to reach them and therefore your minority agency — and your minority budget — is the way to go. What I am suggesting (perhaps “suggesting” is too subtle, perhaps screaming from the mountaintops is a better description) is that a new understanding of the majority marketplace is essential. Because these new consumers ARE the majority.
It’s not like the clues are always easy to decipher. Back in 2007, the research firm Information Resources found that salsa outsold ketchup in the United States by $163.4 million. Yet that same year another market researcher, NPD Group, reported that 48% of households used ketchup in a typical two-week period, three times the number that used salsa. And The Wall Street Journal reported that condiment giant Heinz declined to take a public position at all, saying instead, “We believe there is room for both in the refrigerator and that consumers don’t view the two products interchangeably.”
What is required is bold new creativity and leadership based on the realities of the hemisphere the way it’s going to be, not the way it was, and certainly not the way “old school” marketers would like it to be. What is called for is a new outlook that considers the way these emerging consumers pay attention, consume information, make decisions, and purchase.
Understanding and embracing their use of technology, language, cultural cues, and financial tools — both online and off — will ultimately determine which marketers will prevail and which will be sitting by the wayside, wondering what the hell just happened.
For the past few years, advertising to gay audiences has been the hypocritical little secret of a lot of marketers. They’re seduced by the demographics and sheer purchasing power of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) consumers but they’re terrified that their more conservative, middle-of-the-road customers might object to seeing gay couples in ads and stop buying their products or services.
To avoid this the advertisers sneak around, using same-sex models in the ads they run in gay publications, but reverting to more traditional couples in their mainstream ads. That way they can appear to be gay-friendly when they’re talking to gay audiences but still hedge their bets when they’re communicating to their bread-and-butter consumers.
I pointed this out when I spoke to a LGBT travel convention in San Francisco a number of years ago. My question to the audience was how long they were going to patronize advertisers who made half-hearted attempts to woo gay consumers by shamefully hiding their outreach in gay-only media. I also wanted to know how long the audience was going to accept namby-pamby photos that showed happy gay couples but never portrayed them in the real life situations you see in mainstream media — dancing, raising children, sleeping in bed together, and kissing.
To make matters worse, gay publications are just as complicit in this chicken-hearted ruse. Because they don’t want to rock the boat and risk losing ad revenue, they rarely point out the fact that their very readers are being taken advantage of by the companies who are advertising to them. Gay publications don’t compare the ads that run in their publications with the similar, but heterosexually oriented, ads that run in mainstream papers and magazines because they know that ultimately that will reflect badly on them — and their bottom lines.
The reason for all this is simple: Gay consumers read both gay and mainstream media but straight readers do not read gay publications.
What’s more, the true demographics of gay marketing are stacked against the LGBT consumer and those companies that want to reach them. The problem is that while the US Census counts 311,849,166 Americans as of July 26, 2011, no one really knows how many of them are homosexual. USA Today estimates the number at 25 million (12.4%) while The Washington Post says 10% of men and five percent of women are gay. And The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, a sexual orientation law and public policy think tank, estimates only 9 million (about 3.8%). Adding to the confusion, within the LGBT audience you have to account for younger and older consumers, men and women, and every other demographic (racial, cultural, etc.), all of which create new challenges for marketers.
While the total count of how many Americans identify themselves as L, G, B, or T clearly varies, what we find is that none of the gay publications actually reach a very large gay audience. It makes sense, therefore, that the print media most widely consumed by gay consumers would be mainstream newspapers and magazines — the same publications general market advertisers are using to reach their buyers. In fact, in a study done by Community Marketing, 30,000 gay respondents said that they find out about relevant stories from mainstream media 65% of the time compared to 46% of the time from gay print and online media.
Throw all this together with a few other facts and you’ll realize the great opportunity that the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York presented for our client, The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Consider the following:
Because so many eyes would be on New York’s first same-sex marriages, performed on Sunday, July 24th, it stands to reason that The New York Times’ Sunday Styles section, and its Weddings/Celebrations marriage listings would be well read by readers of all sexual orientations. And so that section presented the perfect opportunity for us to reach all of our audiences the right way — with pride, admiration, and a true sense of welcome.
But the point of this blog post is not just to point out the interesting marketing challenges inherent in reaching the gay audience. Nor is it to pat ourselves on the back for a brilliant marketing move. Instead it is to thank and congratulate our marketing partners at the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau for their foresight, vision, openness to new ideas, and courage and conviction to do the right thing. And that’s something all consumers should congratulate them for.
Sitting in an airplane on my way to speak at the National Speakers Association Keynote Lab and mainlining my daily fix of The New York Times, I came across an advertising article by my friend Stuart Elliott titled “The Game Plan? Returning to What Works.”
Elliott writes about the Superbowl campaign that CareerBuilder ran in 2005 and 2006. Rather than try to paraphrase Elliott’s description, here’s what he wrote:
“Those spots featured a hapless office drone whose co-workers are chimpanzees, thus likening a bad job to dealing with idiots. The spots brought to life the theme of the CareerBuilder campaign at that time, ‘A better job awaits’.”
Stuart goes on to describe the campaign’s online component, Monk-e-mail, “which enables computer users to send message featuring customized images of ‘talking’ chimpanzees.”
Maybe you remember the very funny ads. Maybe you even sent or received your own Monk-e-mail with a customized simian avatar. You wouldn’t be alone – according to Elliott, 4.4 million people visited the site within 30 days and 160 million total messages have been sent. Monkey business, indeed.
In 2007, two years after the spots debuted, Cramer-Krasselt, the advertising agency responsible for the breakthrough ads introduced a new campaign loosely based on the Survivor TV show. The new campaign did not perform nearly as well as the monkeys did and CareerBuilder moved its account to Weiden & Kennedy, the agency famous for its work with Nike.
W&K tapped into a current advertising trend and debuted a consumer-generated ad most notable for its pantsless workers. It didn’t pull either and so CareerBuilder went back to what worked.
It is “a natural to come back to a campaign that made such a strong emotional connection with job seekers and corporate customers,” Matt Ferguson, CEO of the company explained to Elliott. And Richard Castellini, chief marketing officer at CareerBuilder added, “people can relate to working with difficult co-workers.”
CareerBuilder’s advertising history is rather easy to follow. They scored big with Cramer-Krasselt’s monkey idea, and then tried both new advertising and a new advertising agency. Neither plan worked as well and so they’re now returning to what succeeded in the first place.
All well and good and an excellent example of what we talked about last week. That is, that “in a vacuum, ideas are both worthless and priceless at the same time. When they’re fully exploited, they can change the world. But when they’re ignored, reduced or simply not employed to their fullest potential, they have little value.” In 2005, the monkey idea was exploited and it worked. In 2007 it was abandoned and it didn’t work at all. In 2011 it will be reignited and we’ll see if it still can resonate with consumers.
The question I find most interesting in all this is why CareerBuilder didn’t resuscitate their original agency relationship along with their original campaign (Stuart Elliott tells us the new ads will be produced “internally”). I asked Stuart and he confirmed that the agency was paid for the original monkey campaign so CareerBuilder can legally do what it pleases with the concept. But does the placement firm have any responsibility, ethical or otherwise, to bring back their original agency? If they ultimately hire another agency to create the new monkey spots, can the new shop legitimately call the new ads theirs even though they’re based on a concept created by other minds? And, most importantly, which is more critical – the creative minds who came up with the original monkey concept or the concept itself? After all, the monkey idea already exists — who’s going to create the next one?
I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.