No marketer can be successful in the United States now without an understanding of the cultural transformation of the American consumer.
Between 2012 and 2017, the US multicultural population drove 99% of the country’s growth (11.7 million people) and 75% of spending growth ($487 billion).
Understanding how to navigate this cultural transformation is challenging, even for the most seasoned and culturally aware brands.
Culture is commonly defined as the shared customs, beliefs, and norms of a group. When understanding the culture of consumer groups, marketers need to strike a balance between size and homogeneity.
Too many small segments are too costly to target, while an appeal to overly large segments is felt as bland and unmemorable.
Understanding culture begins by respecting its roots in race and ethnicity.
Individuals inescapably inherit a racial and ethnic culture at birth. The “strength” of the inherited culture (i.e., how closely it is connected to a specific racial and ethnic background) depends on childhood experience. America has long been unusual for its emphasis on assimilation into a mainstream, but this force has diminished considerably. Retained and even re-acquired cultural affiliation with racial and ethnic origins is now playing a larger and larger role in consumer identity.
But race and ethnicity are only the starting point. Cultures evolve through generational change.
Generational factors augment–if not transform–the inherited culture, which is then passed on to offspring. The output of this process is an ever-changing cultural milieu that is driven by the interplay of racial, ethnic, and generational factors that generate new unexpected new identities and cultural forces.
For this reason we say that while culture is inherited through race and ethnicity, culture evolves through generational change.