Multicultural Millennials: Building Relationships with Young Consumers

Recent insights from Nielsen reveal that “multicultural consumers are transforming the U.S. mainstream… (p)ropelled by the twin engines of population growth and expanded buying power.” I explored the Nielsen data in a previous post, reaching the conclusion that in order for brands to serve this rapidly growing segment of multicultural superconsumers, diversity must be more than just a buzzword. When diversity of experiences, voices, and viewpoints drives a brand’s identity, communications strategy, and product development, it can authentically and successfully resonate with a multicultural market.

In addition to embracing a diverse set of influences, how can brands reach the young consumers who are poised to become major market forces over the next decade? In a time when consumer trust in major public institutions (including business) has been compromised, brand builders must strive for authenticity, communication, and a purpose-driven approach.

Unique Challenges in Building Relationships with Millennials

First, the good news for brands: the growing market of multicultural consumers is dominated by Millennials, who display higher levels of brand loyalty than other market segments. As Adweek reveals in their Multicultural Millennials infographic, “95% (of multicultural millennials) consider themselves loyal to brands that they like.” Consumer trust isn’t dead among this demographic, but they do demand more in exchange for their loyalty than many other consumers.

Social media and mobile marketing, the driving forces behind Millennial brand engagement, can be double-edged swords. While multicultural millennials have unprecedented exposure to brand marketing through platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, they demand a high level of transparency and engagement with social issues. “83% like it when brands take a public stand for or against issues they believe in,” Adweek reports, and “78% feel like they have power as a consumer to influence brands.”

In order to build lasting relationships with a multicultural Millennial audience, brands must keep their finger on the pulse and stand up for issues that are important to them. While millennials are loyal to brands they like, the backlash against brands that betray their trust (remember Pepsi’s commercial co-opting social movements?) is swift and decisive.

Multicultural Millennials and the “Earned Brand”

There is a fertile market among multicultural Millennials, but brand builders have to carefully plant and nurture the seeds of brand loyalty in order to grow into a preferred brand. Edelman’s 2016 Earned Brand report speaks to the ways in which brands can earn trust from multicultural Millennials. The definition of “Earned Brand” is quite revealing and contains a powerful message for marketers.

“The Earned Brand has a worldview and a belief system,” the report states, “one that defines… how the brand behaves… in all contexts.” This speaks directly to Millennial consumers’ desire to support brands with a social conscience and transparent values that are expressed openly and enacted in ways that make a real-world impact. Consistency is also a highlight – if a brand says one thing but does another, Millennials are ready and waiting to cry foul. Social media-enabled dialogue between brands and followers, and between those followers themselves, gives brand-makers an instant barometer that reveals the effectiveness of their approach.

To further reinforce the idea that “doing good should be part of a brand’s DNA,” Edelman reports that between 55 and 71 percent of multicultural consumers said they “will not buy if a brand fails to meet social obligations.”

Reaching Multicultural Millennials

How do brands demonstrate their worldview, belief system, and their impact on their communities? For this mobile-engaged, social media-saturated demographic, “peer media” appears to be the most trusted source of brand information. Among both Latinx and African-American consumers, peer sources were found to be the “most truthful and trusted” source of brand information, and also “most used for new product introduction.” Peer sources include social media sharing as well as in-person conversations, as distinct from earned, paid, or owned media sources.

Brands hoping to build relationships with Millennial multicultural consumers should prioritize shareable content that demonstrates their social consciousness and investment in the communities they seek to serve. By creating content that spotlights purpose and impact, brand builders can authentically connect with consumers who will spread that connection through their peer groups. Edelman’s Earned Brand report urges brands to “invite and facilitate an ongoing conversation” with targeted consumers, as well as “have a charismatic leader” who consumers will admire.

The bottom line is deceptively simple: Multicultural Millennials value purpose and social engagement, and eagerly reward brands who demonstrate shared values and social impact. The ongoing challenge for brands is to highlight these aspects of their message while remaining consistent, transparent, and involved in consumer’s lives and conversations.

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