New demos demand notice

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In these dark days of economic downturn, there is at least one beacon of opportunity. It is the multicultural consumer. By measure of their swelling ranks, and growing influence on trends in the general market, these consumers-particularly young ones-must be a prime target for enlightened marketers.

Our look last week at how soda marketers are reacting to demographic shifts reported that Coca-Cola Co., for example, has elevated Hispanics to its No. 2 marketing priority behind teens. The company recognizes that young Latinos are the future, and it is ratcheting up its flavor profile to meet their tastes. True, three quarters of the U.S. population is still white, but, as Esperanza Carrion, marketing director at Hispanic food powerhouse Goya, summed it up, "You need to put your resources where you see future growth."

And the growth statistics can be staggering. Burrell Communications, a long-respected specialist in marketing to African-Americans, estimates young urban consumers between the ages of 12 and 24 spent $70.3 billion last year, and believes they influence the spending of another 40 million peers. That's led Burrell to coin the term "Yurban" to define and reach the urban tastemakers-of all cultural backgrounds-who influence lifestyle and attitude.

There's an important recognition here. It's far from adequate to simply target one message to one ethnic group. There are now cultural melting pots within melting pots, and they're spilling into the overall market. Marketing messages to black teens should be different than those aimed at their parents. Likewise, a one-size-fits-all message to Latinos doesn't cut it. As Michael Sands, Snapple's chief marketing and operations officer, said, "There's tons of territory, a ton of pride and [flavors] that are individual to different countries. You can't say, `Gee, you speak Spanish. Here's a flavor."'

For smart marketers who recognize and address cultural differences, there is a common language here. It's called opportunity.

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