Live from NCDM: speaking to emerging U.S. markets

Dec 11, 2002 10:30 PM  By

(Direct Newsline) Orlando, FL–Marketers seeking growth sectors need look no further than the youth, senior, and Hispanic markets, which represent the consumer sectors with the greatest amount of change, according to U.S Census data.

While demographic watchers generally accept that the U.S. Hispanic population has been increasing, few thought that between 1990 and 2000 there would be 58% growth rates. The growth rate for Asians is 48%, for African-Americans 16%.

Hispanics now make up 12.5% of the U.S. population, a larger slice of the populace than blacks, John F. Long, chief of the population division at the U.S. Census Bureau, noted during a session at the National Center for Database Marketing held here.

And more and more ethnic populations–including Hispanics– speak other languages at home. Twenty million do so as of 2000, compared with 14.7 million in 1990. Furthermore, 4.4 million are “linguistically isolated,” up from 2.9 million 12 years ago.

One trick to reaching these consumers is going through children within a household, some of whom are the sole conduit to the English-speaking community, said Pamela Kiecker, chair of the department of marketing and business law at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business and another speaker here. In fact, Hispanic youths between the ages of 10 and 19 are considered very desirable consumers, both in their own right and as household-purchase influencers.

This mirrors a trend toward greater purchase recommendation among younger consumers. Today’s youth have more influence on household spending than ever before, Kiecker said. They are more accessible through technology: Challenge them, allow them to interact with a marketing campaign, provide high-impact messages and they will respond well.

But they also have more grown-up worries, and are more realistic and serious than previous generations. Marketing messages should reflect this.

If younger consumers are carrying adult concerns, older consumers are feeling younger. Marketers need to consider cognitive age in addition to chronological age. Consumers are more active and waiting later to retire, and most feel they are 10-15 years younger than they actually are, Kiecker said.

In spite of how they feel, baby boomers are aging. The 55+ market, which made up 21% of the population in 1990, will jump to 29% by 2010. Marketers who want to reach consumers 55 and older who are still active will have to avoid common pitfalls–such as referring to them as seniors, the elderly, or “the golden years,” Kiecker said.

What does work? Messages that don’t complicate their lives, messages that aren’t so trendy that they highlight generation gaps, and messages that reflect the roles of children and grandchildren as purchase influencers.