Cheryl Pearson-McNeil The world has changed considerably since the "Leave It to Beaver" days, when the Cleaver family represented the model of the American family. My employer, the Nielsen Company, measures and analyzes consumer trends and behaviors across the globe, and recently released a comprehensive new study--The New Digital American Family, which details America's ever evolving society of many "flavas" (officially known as diversity) and the marketing impact of that diversity. In a nutshell, our society is more ethnically "flava-ful" than at any other point in history.
According to the report, no single cultural, social, demographic, economic or political point of view dominates the American landscape. How cool is that? The data projects that households with children under age 18 will be predominantly multi-cultural (Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American) by 2020. That's just a short nine years away. And if that's too far out for some of ya'll to envision, consider the fact that a whopping 40 percent of the population is already multi-cultural today due in large part to immigration. You know what this means, right? Advertisers are going to be forced more and more to focus their marketing lenses on us--all of us! This means adapting and adopting new technologies for communicating with consumers who look like you and me.
The smartphone, for example, has emerged as an equalizing agent across households of every ethnic demographic and income level. Whereas before there was a "digital divide" as it related to African Americans having access to the internet, these nifty devices provide low cost, easy access Web connectivity to households of all income levels and ethnicities. Two out of three of us who are U.S. mobile subscribers use text messaging. We live in the age of anytime, anywhere, affordable access. This too is a game changer for marketers who now must learn to leverage the unique attributes of "mobile" into their campaign strategies. Here are some specific advertising technology realities, according to The New Digital American Family report:
• When surfing the net, as a group, African Americans tend to gravitate to music sites, while Hispanics tend to visit Latin-influenced sites like Univision and MSN Latino and Asians prefer technology sites.
• African-American media habits are TV- and mobile-centric. As I have shared in previous columns, we own four or more sets per household and spend almost 40 percent more time watching TV, especially premium cable channels, than the average American viewer. That's not necessarily a bad thing if television manufacturers, advertisers and programmers of these mediums take note of our over indexing and model more content, commercials and programs after us.
• As a group, we also apparently love to talk more than the U.S. average, running up more mobile voice minutes per month-1,261-than any other group. Again, when the mobile companies realize they can improve their market share with such a brand loyal demographic group perhaps they'll increase the number of ads that feature people who look like those of us who use their products the most. And if they really want to be cutting edge, they might even increase their advertising buys on stations and in publications Blacks frequent the most. Now there's a novel idea, right?
Education and affluence are consistent behavior markers, regardless of ethnicity. Do you recognize any of your behavior below?
• Higher income families across the board buy fewer cell phones than the average, most likely because lower income consumers are more likely to bypass a landline in exchange for a cell phone.
• Higher income households use digital video recorders (DVRs) four times more often; purchase more video games and more DVDs than the average household. They also are huge devotees of time-shifting, which allows them to watch more with their children.
• Higher income families also spend less time on sites like Facebook and YouTube but more time educational options like Teacherweb.com and ClassZone.com.
So let's not get it twisted: as African Americans we have power and influence through our choices of purchasing, listening, talking, surfing and viewing. If someone tries to make you feel bad because you do "too much of this or watch too much of that" please know that for every one of your actions--there is a "ching ching" cash register reaction for some business or company. So choose and act wisely and--Viva la difference!
Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is the senior vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations for The Nielsen Company. For more information and studies go to www.nielsenwire.com.