A Look at the Numbers Behind America's Huge Demographic Shift

What the Census Will Likely Say -- and What That Means for Marketers

By Published on .

Chiqui Cartagena
Chiqui Cartagena
With the arrival of Hispanic Heritage month, people in the media and marketing worlds have already started to talk about what the new Census results could reveal next year. Jackie Hernandez, the chief operating officer of Telemundo, speaks eloquently and passionately about the "New Now" which is her vision (supported by tons of data) of what lies ahead for these great United States.

"These are profound times of change," says Hernandez, "and it's not about tomorrow, it's about today. In the New Now, the rules of engagement are changing and even the definition of who is a minority is changing. For companies to succeed now they need to understand how it's all changing," she adds

I'm a big believer in change. I believe change is good. But I also know change is hard, so the more prepared you are for change, the better. That's what Isaac Mizrahi and Howard T. Konig set out to do in a recently published "yellow" paper from AlmaDDB, "The New State of America: What the 2010 Census will reveal about the evolution of the United States of America."

Not only does this paper do a great job of recapping the growing influence of the Hispanic market as it relates to the decennial Census, it also helps marketers understand why they need to start focusing on this huge demographic change that America is undergoing. And this is the key point: It's not about the Hispanic market, it about how these demographic shifts are affecting the so-called general consumer market.

I've been telling the Hispanic-market story for so long that I had forgotten that it wasn't really until the 2000 Census that the dominance of Hispanics became a "new phenomenon." As Mizrahi and Konig properly point out in this paper, if you look at the 1990 Census, it was the African-American market that was the largest minority in America, representing 12% (29 million) of the total U.S. population while Hispanics only accounted for 9% (22 million).

By 2000 Hispanics, as the fastest-growing minority, had already surpassed the African-American community, reaching 35 million, representing 13% of the total population, while African Americans remained at 12%. By the end of 2010, there will be 30% more Hispanics (50 million) than there will be African Americans (38 million) in this country. (For the latest data on Hispanics, make sure to check out Ad Age's own white paper, 2010 Hispanic America, by Peter Francese, and the annual Hispanic Fact Pack.)

Data doesn't lie and although these are just projections, they are based on very solid data from the American Community Survey, the CDC, Homeland Security and Geoscape's DataStream 2010 Series.

So here are a couple other whoppers for you to keep in mind:

  • 62% of Hispanics are under the age of 34.

  • 33% of Hispanics will be under the age of 18.

  • In Texas, California, New Mexico, Hawaii and the District of Columbia, the white portion of the population is already a minority (representing less than 50%).

  • At the DMA, level there will be 19 markets where the minority is the majority. In 15 of them, the dominant minority is Hispanic; in two markets the dominant minority is Black, and in Hawaii, of course, it's the Asian/Pacific Islander.

  • By 2020, minorities are expected to account for 40% of the country.
I asked Mizrahi if he thought marketers were addressing the changing America and here's what he had to say: "I think some marketers are doing it well while others are only now starting now to discuss it, which is a good starting point. But some of them are not doing it at all, which is why we wrote this paper. And in today's economy, marketing to ethnic minorities may possibly be the competitive advantage they need to get ahead."

Mizrahi encourages brand marketers to not only recognize the demographic changes but to start taking advantage of them.

"The most important thing is the internal discussion of what are the possible consequences of this demographic shift. We can't look at the past. ... We need to write the future. ... So experimentation, control programs and pilots are the best options for marketers," he adds. "Few people realize that Hispanics are influencing the general market more than vice-versa. They are trendsetting ... and the debate that papers like this provokes ... well, that's the most interesting thing."

Key marketing implications
Whether you like it or not, the reality is that America is changing thanks to the growth of all the multicultural markets (including growing numbers of immigrants from Muslim countries and large swaths of people from Eastern Europe). Hispanics will continue to be a driving force behind America's changing face, not so much through immigration but rather by births, with 60% of the U.S. Hispanic market growth coming from the natural births.

So, what does this mean to you? Mizrahi and Konig say it better than me:

  • Any marketing plan targeting youths must take into account Hispanics.

  • Marketing plans must take into account that Hispanics live in multi-generational households, therefore it is critical to understand how different generations influence each other.

  • The influence of the Hispanic market goes beyond the traditional states. Over 30 markets saw the Hispanic population increase by more than 100,000 persons in the past 10 years.

  • U.S. born Hispanics will require marketing campaigns that take into account their unique cultural background. It is critical to develop marketing campaigns that go beyond language and place of birth."
For those of you who really want to understand how to do this, I've just read a great book called The Culture Code, by a French-born marketing consultant and psychoanalyst, Clotaire Rapaille, which really helps explain how culture plays a key role in marketing efforts abroad. If marketers are used to listening for and working with culture codes in other countries, why is it so hard for them to do it here too?

To download the AlmaDDB paper, go to: ddb.com/yellowpapers/

Chiqui Cartagena is the senior VP of multicultural marketing at Story Worldwide. She is also the author of Latino Boom!: Everything You Need to Know to Grow Your Business in the U.S. Hispanic Market. Follow Chiqui on Twitter @chiquicartagena.
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