Black, brown and red are the new green

After Queen Elizabeth welcomed a bi-racial American woman into the Royal Family in May 2018, the crowds that gathered along the English roadsides to get a glimpse of the newlyweds — along with the reported 2 billion worldwide TV viewers — were witnessing a global phenomenon: Multi-cultural relationships are reshaping Western culture.

Buying power

Social and cultural acceptance aren’t the only issues shaping Western culture, especially in the United States. Purchasing power by U.S. minorities has significantly increased as the “minority becomes the new majority.” Heading into 2019, this emerging multiculturalism will have profound impacts on public relations, marketing, branding and other industries. The coming decade will be a time when interfacing with people of various backgrounds will provide an insider view of what appeals to each of them - their cultural and political sensitivities, as well as their various tastes in consumer goods such as fashion, food and digital technologies.

As PR and marketing communications professionals, we must adapt and adjust our thinking, pitching techniques, client consulting and management skills to serve a more diverse and complex American buying audience.

Buying power data

Jeff Humphreys of The Selig Center of Economic Growth addressed minorities’ incredible growing money power this way: “As America grows more diverse, minority groups are reaping great economic dividends. Minority buying power is growing at a faster pace than the white consumer market for a number of reasons, such as demographics, increases in educational attainment and entrepreneurial activity. And business owners would do well to pay attention.”

The Selig report estimates the total buying power in the U.S. to have been $13.9 trillion in 2016 and predicts it will grow to $16.6 trillion by 2021. The report notes that the African-American buying power is growing most significantly and is estimated to expand from $1.2 trillion in 2017 to $1.5 trillion by 2021, making it the second largest racial minority consumer market in the U.S. The U.S. Hispanic market is the largest minority consumer with $1.7 trillion buying power in 2017, wielding more financial muscle than Mexico’s GDP, with an economic might larger than the economies of all but 14 countries in the world.

Ethical influence

While minorities are becoming the majority and the biggest spenders in the U.S., how does that affect the “ethical” responses by American corporations to public scrutiny of racial, ethnic and gender-related incidents? Data from the USC 2018 Global Communications Report notes that 62% of PR professionals are predicting businesses to become more ethical over the next five years.

Major U.S. corporations have come face-to-face with issues of racial and religious intolerance, xenophobia and homophobia in the workplace. Starbucks closed its 8,000 nationwide stores for an afternoon to provide its 174,000 employees with racial bias training. And ABC moved swiftly to cancel Roseanne Barr’s hit show after she tweeted “abhorrent and repugnant” racial insults. But do these ethical responses support the data of increased ethical behavior, or are companies simply more aware today that minorities are fiercely brand loyal and that they expect the companies with whom they spend their dollars to respect them and strongly support their causes? Additionally, Hispanic and African American audiences are also more likely to interact with brands on social media and publicly voice their opinions about their experiences with various brands.

Merging the bottom line

Multiculturalism, purchasing power, brand loyalty and ethical responses by corporations make for a good merger in public relations. Our role as PR professionals is to service our companies and clients in a fiscally and socially responsible manner. That includes striving for fairness, diversity and inclusivity, which may at times conflict with our own personal or political positions.

As PR professionals, we need to understand our client’s products, services and audiences, and remember that our buying audiences include Gen Xers and millennials who are more accepting of diversity, nontraditional lifestyles and culturally-mixed relationships than previous consumer audiences. And these audiences also seek ways to contribute to our planet and to our society.

In short, we need to customize our marketing research, humanize our messages, and become better acquainted with our key audiences’ needs and preferences — and the black, brown and red subtleties that are integrated within each of those markets.

We must tap into the expanding buying power of people of color in the U.S. to help keep our country the most prosperous and diverse nation in the world.


To download a full copy of the 2019 Relevance Report, click here.

Ms. Julia A. Wilson is the chief executive officer and founder of Wilson Global Communications LLC, an international strategic public relations and marketing communications firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. 

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