The American market just changed forever. | Bruce Turkel

A startling shift is changing the demographics of the world’s most important market. 2012 is the first year in history that non-Hispanic white births in the United States will no longer be the majority.
According to The New York Times, “in the latest sign of the nation’s shifting racial and ethnic composition, births to Asian, black and Hispanic women in the United States are on the verge of surpassing births to non-Hispanic whites.”

While “the Census Bureau estimates that minorities will constitute a majority of the nation’s overall population in about three decades and a majority of Americans under age 18 in about one decade, since 2000 alone the proportion of people under age 20 who are non-Hispanic whites has dipped to 57%, from 61%. In fact, in 2008 Asian, black and Hispanic children made up 47% of the population under five.”

Why all this dry demographic talk? Because the handwriting is on the wall and the message is clear — marketers who don’t adapt to the new demographic reality will see their market share decline right along with the country’s general market birthrates.

Please don’t kick yourself for not noticing. How many people caught in the wave of history see what’s going on? There’s a reason why hindsight is 20/20. There’s a reason why the words should’ve, would’ve and could’ve are usually accompanied by a Three Stooges’ slap to the forehead. And there’s a reason why you should reconsider how you’re reaching your audiences.

Don’t look at things the way they were and wonder why. Learn to look at things the way they’re going to be and wonder where. As in, Where’s The Future (WTF)?

After all, if minorities accounted for 48% of all births in the U.S. in the 12 months that ended in July 2008, then business as usual is no longer business as usual. And if your marketing hasn’t changed to reach these new consumers then you’re talking to ghosts. Specifically, the ghosts of markets past.

By the way, before you think this is only a domestic phenomenon, major demographic changes are occurring in all of the Americas. Looking south we find Latin America in the middle of a renaissance. In direct contrast to what is going on in much of the rest of the world, LatAm’s economy is soaring. Mexico and the 19 countries of Central and South America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean (not including Cuba) are seeing year over year economic growth. And for the first time in history, this growth is not simply due to the exploitation of natural resources but to the rise of the middle class.

For the first time ever this demographics’ purchasing power is surpassing that of the upper classes. The Miami Herald says, “…many countries have built up their international reserves and continued their economic reforms. With more people entering the middle class and increasing consumption, Latin American economies have more of a cushion to sustain themselves during a rough patch.” And according to The Economist, “…the region’s economy will again expand by more than 5%. Economic growth is growing hand in hand with social progress.”

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that because these new consumers represent a formerly minority demographic that minority marketing techniques are the right tools to reach them and therefore your minority agency — and your minority budget — is the way to go. What I am suggesting (perhaps “suggesting” is too subtle, perhaps screaming from the mountaintops is a better description) is that a new understanding of the majority marketplace is essential. Because these new consumers ARE the majority.

It’s not like the clues are always easy to decipher. Back in 2007, the research firm Information Resources found that salsa outsold ketchup in the United States by $163.4 million. Yet that same year another market researcher, NPD Group, reported that 48% of households used ketchup in a typical two-week period, three times the number that used salsa. And The Wall Street Journal reported that condiment giant Heinz declined to take a public position at all, saying instead, “We believe there is room for both in the refrigerator and that consumers don’t view the two products interchangeably.”

What is required is bold new creativity and leadership based on the realities of the hemisphere the way it’s going to be, not the way it was, and certainly not the way “old school” marketers would like it to be. What is called for is a new outlook that considers the way these emerging consumers pay attention, consume information, make decisions, and purchase.

Understanding and embracing their use of technology, language, cultural cues, and financial tools — both online and off — will ultimately determine which marketers will prevail and which will be sitting by the wayside, wondering what the hell just happened.

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