Numbers don't lie: minorities merit major marketing focus

Only a few years ago, I spent a lot of time talking about the new realities in the US consumer market.

Only a few years ago, I spent a lot of time talking about the new realities in the US consumer market. At that time, there were two major Spanish-language TV networks, a handful of local radio stations, a few dailies, and a limited number of websites catering to Hispanic consumers. Not convinced of the opportunity, many marketers said, "We can reach Hispanics through general market media" or my favorite: "Hispanics aren't spending."

That was 1999. Today, with the 2010 Census data coming out, marketers have been forced to rethink their attitudes toward the new realities shaping the US consumer market.

Sheer numbers are driving this long-awaited strategy shift? Hispanics are not only the US' largest minority, but are quickly creating a multiculturally influenced general market.

The US Hispanic market grew more than 3% in 2009 to surpass 48 million, or nearly 16% of the total population, the largest and ever-more-diverse minority in the country, according to the Census Bureau. The data reflects how minorities continue growing, now up to 35% of the total population.

The new estimates reveal a nation of both larger and younger minorities, with Hispanics having the greatest growth rate due to higher birth rates. Between 2008 and 2009, the US' Hispanic population rose 1.5 million, a slightly smaller increase than the year before. Still, Hispanics represented more than half the total population growth during 2009. The larger portion of this increase, two-thirds, was due to births, not immigration.

For the moment, non-Hispanic whites total about 200 million, but 14% less than the percentage in 2000, when the US' non-Hispanic white population was calculated to be 195 million. This signals a major transformation. The country is taking on a more diverse character, even more so with more and more Americans defining themselves as belonging to different cultural groups.

Many of us are asking: will this transformation finally end America's fascination with thinking about the total market in segments? Only when marketers seriously begin to look at the dynamics of the market and the new realities that exist will they be able to grasp the inherent opportunities in this new market reality.

Armando Azarloza is president of The Axis Agency, a leading US multicultural marketing agency based in Los Angeles.

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