Chapter 7: Cultural Influencers - The Buying Filters of Emerging Majorities

Chapter 7: Cultural Influencers ”The Buying Filters of Emerging Majorities


The Hispanic, Black and Asian American market segments, until recently referred to as minority groups, are rapidly growing in numbers and economic influence. [1] In fact, we marketers had to drop the term "minority" altogether and call these segments what they really are: emerging majorities. The women of these emerging majorities are looking for brands that view them as a significant part of the future of the U.S. consumer market and already reflect the mix of their many cultures in the goods, services and marketing messages they deliver.

It may feel like the major growth among Hispanics, Blacks and Asian Americans has snuck up on us, but it really hasn't. The shrinking of the Anglo American majority seems to drive that point home. While Anglo Americans in 1990 represented 87 percent of the total consumer marketplace , by 2007 their market share is expected to decline to 80 percent of all U.S. consumer spending, and this downward trend will continue. [2]

Correctly using the many possible terms to describe these segments, like African American or Caribbean American or Hispanic American or Mexican American, is just the tip of the iceberg in training your brain to understand the women of these groups. We'll start by pointing out the common traits that are generally shared by these diverse cultures and that differentiate them from Anglo culture as a whole. Then, we'll go into a few more specifics on each of these three ethnicities to help define who these women are and what influences their buying decisions.

[1] For the purposes of this book, the term "Black" seemed to be the most comprehensive designation for those who are dark- skinned and of African, Caribbean or American origin.

[2] Jeffrey M. Humphreys, "The multicultural economy 2003: America's minority buying power," GBEC, vol. 63, number 2, Second Quarter 2003, Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia,

The Buying Filters of Emerging Majority Women

Whether your market is Hispanic, Black or Asian American women, an " in-culture " marketing approach should be the ultimate goal: [3] The keys to reaching them should reflect their truths as ethnic women, as well as honor the beliefs, traditions and values that differentiate them from women in the general marketplace .

There are a few overarching guidelines to consider when viewing your brand through the lens of an Hispanic, a Black or an Asian American woman :

Cultures and dialects vary even within each segment. Asian Americans, for example, have roots in countries with cultures and languages as diverse as those of India, Cambodia, and Japan.

Acculturation will vary, as well. Women who are first generation immigrants will likely hold much more strongly to the traditions of their homeland than will their daughters or granddaughters.

Religion is an important but sensitive topic. Special holy days and celebrations are very meaningful to members of these ethnic populations, but such strong faiths and traditions make it that much easier for marketers to offend (so be wary).

Family and domestic concerns remain important. Family gatherings are so traditionally ingrained with most of these segments that representing women from these ethnicities in an overly independent, more Anglocized way, might not resonate.

Clothing, hair and general appearance matter. A put-together and well-groomed look is yet another cultural standard for many women in these emerging majorities, which should be reflected in your marketing efforts. Interestingly, even though ethnic women seem more attentive to their appearance, the effects of aging may be less of an issue for them than for Caucasian women. As reported by the Fort Worth Star Telegram , "In general, African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American women appear to be less worried about getting (and looking) olderpartly because their skin is less quick to show signs of age, and partly because their cultural backgrounds offer them a different perspective." [4]

Language may still be a barrier . In response to acculturation levels, an effort should be made to communicate with people of Hispanic, Black or Asian American (or any other) ethnicity in their own language wherever possible. If nothing else, a bilingual approach in ads or promotions will be key for further demonstrating that your brand values its consumers' cultural heritage.

Certainly, you may be able to make an existing campaign more relevant to some of these emerging cultures with minor adjustments in tone. But usually, it will take more effort to craft messages and find images that resonate with the different cultures of these emerging majorities.

Honda, for example, has already realized the value of taking a multicultural approach. In mid-2002, the marketing savvy auto manufacturer launched three ad campaigns specifically targeted to Hispanics, Asian Americans and Blacks. Their bilingual Hispanic TV effort, tagged "When was the last time a car sounded this good to you?" aired on Univision, Telemundo, VH1, Discovery and MTV. The Asian American spot was more celebration-oriented with a voice-over that said, "Introducing the all-new Accord. Let the celebration begin." And, the African American ad aired on UPN, WB and BET, featuring the tagline , "Redesigned Accord coupe from Honda. The attraction is obvious." [5]

Honda's well-done multicultural efforts should inspire us to learn more about marketing effectively to these emerging majorities. Let's take a quick look at some of the facts and marketing challenges specifically presented by the Hispanic, Asian American and Black women's markets to help you jump-start launching your own in-culture campaigns.

[3] M. Isabel Vald s is recognized as the founder of the in-culture marketing movement. She is also the author of Marketing to American Latinos, a Guide to the In-Culture Approach , Part 2 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Paramount Market Publishing, 2002). Also see

[4] Miki Turner, "The Dilemma of Aging," Fort Worth Star Telegram , February 9, 2003. Cited in Lisa Finn, editor, Marketing to Women newsletter (New York: EPM Communications, Inc.), April 2003,

[5] Angela Johnson, editor, Marketing to Emerging Majorities (New York: EPM Communications, Inc., October 2002),