Tipping Point: The Majority Will Become the Minority by 2044

Multicultural Mainstream Impacts Entertainment, Ads, Food, Sports ... and Everything

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The Census Bureau a decade ago projected a tipping point would come in 2050, when the majority would become the minority and non-Hispanic whites would no longer account for more than 50% of U.S. inhabitants. That forecast resonated so much that a multicultural shop launching at the time named itself Project 2050.

But just 10 years later, the Census Bureau has revised its forecast: The tipping point will occur much sooner, in 2044 (or maybe even 2043). And it will keep tilting. By 2050, the U.S. population will be 47% white, 28% Hispanic, 13% black and 8% Asian-American. By 2060, close to one in three U.S. residents will be Hispanic, up from about one in six today. And today's multicultural population is increasingly born in the U.S. rather than abroad.

Advertising and entertainment are beginning to reflect a more multicultural mainstream. One of the most ubiquitous TV commercials right now is Cheerios' "Gracie," with its multiracial family and a cute little girl who bargains for a puppy when her father counts out their family in Cheerios, including the addition of a baby brother. "Gracie" made its debut during the 2014 Super Bowl, along with a Coca-Cola spot in which "America the Beautiful" is sung in different languages by immigrants.

Increasingly diverse programming includes family sitcom "Black-ish," hip-hop drama "Empire," Asian-American-centered comedy "Fresh off the Boat" and telenovela-style "Jane the Virgin."

New York's new hot-ticket musical "Hamilton," created by Lin-Manuel Miranda of "In the Heights" fame, tells the story of Alexander Hamilton and America's founding fathers with a multiracial cast. Mr. Miranda, of Puerto Rican descent, plays the title role; the actress cast as his wife is Asian-American; and Aaron Burr is black.

In sports, longtime World Cup sponsor McDonald's always focused its U.S. soccer campaign on Hispanics. Last year, for the first time, McDonald's World Cup campaign targeted the entire market, and the effort was led by the fast feeder's Hispanic agency Alma. Marketers no longer regard soccer as just fĂștbol for Spanish-speaking fans.

Other sports are changing, too. In Major League Baseball, 23% of the league, or 193 players, are foreign-born Latinos. MLB hired a Hispanic agency, LatinWorks, last month to better connect with Latin fans. And the NBA's Latin Nights program this year includes uniforms that display team names as spoken by bilingual fans: The Miami Heat becomes El Heat and the New York Knicks are Nueva York.

Meanwhile, Spanish-language Univision Communications, which often beats the major networks in ratings in big cities, is placing its own English-language bets. Univision is a partner in two cable entertainment channels launched in late 2013 to target English-speaking millennials -- Fusion, with Disney-ABC Television Group, and El Rey Network, with director Robert Rodriguez. El Rey calls its intended audience "the most culturally diverse generation in history."

The face of retail is also changing. Retailers often designate Hispanic stores, based on ZIP codes and other data, for bilingual signage and staff. And supermarkets, in a nation that has embraced dulce de leche, salsa and sriracha, will look different. At an H.E.B in Texas, the chili pepper aisle is a long one, a taqueria turns out fresh tortillas and there's a wide assortment of Mexican queso fresco cheeses.

Kraft recently boosted sales with an Effie-award-winning campaign for Macaroni & Cheese that humorously reassured Hispanics who hadn't grown up with that traditional American dish that they wouldn't stop being Latino if they served it at home.

Already a staple in Hispanic homes, Goya Foods' growth will come from the broader population; one agency, Dieste, handles Goya's Hispanic and general market account. Mexican beer import Modelo Especial broke its first English-language ad campaign last month in an effort to grow beyond its loyal base of Hispanic drinkers.

But in this blended world, the best means to capture the multicultural mainstream isn't always clear cut. Advertisers are wrestling with issues such as whether general-market agencies can do the job of multicultural specialists. Those shops, in turn, are increasingly taking on broader assignments. Marketers are evaluating their own organizations' need for in-house multicultural marketing departments. Media companies are diversifying their offerings to reach a cohort that prefers mobile content. Retailers are diversifying creative and product mix. And politicians are altering their messaging and strategies to win over more diverse voters.

"Marketers are looking at share of growth rather than basic market size," said Andy Hasselwander, VP-products and research at Latinum Network, an organization whose members are marketers trying to better reach the multicultural market.

For instance, Hispanics represent an outsize opportunity in the health-care market. Before the 2013 Affordable Care Act, 41% of Hispanics were uninsured, he said. That number has plummeted to 34%, and Mr. Hasselwander said he expects it to go lower as more Hispanics sign up.

Latinum's two big tips for marketers are to have a strong diversity advocate at the top of the company and to set up a Hispanic or multicultural center of excellence. These corporate groups generally consist of three or four people whose role is training, assisting brands as an internal SWAT team and making sure multicultural insights permeate the company.

"It's an evangelist's job," Mr. Hasselwander said. "Where we've seen centers of excellence cut for cost reasons, good things have not followed."

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