November 4, 2012

‘Demand for Financial Security Is Colorblind’: FPA Leaders Meeting

Diversity not what you think, says multicultural marketing expert

“The demand for financial security is colorblind,” said Laura Sonderup at the outset of her lunchtime presentation on Saturday, titled “Keys to Communicating with the New American Marketplace,” at the FPA’s Chapter Leaders Conference in Denver.

Sonderup, managing director of Hispanidad, which describes itself a full-service Hispanic advertising agency, also said her goal was to give attendees an “aha” moment about the importance of multicultural marketing and communication to their clients and practice.

“America is moving from ‘e pluribus unum’ to an authentically hybrid nation,” she added.

As to what constitutes diversity, she noted that in addition to racial and ethnic categories, there are also those less thought about, such as religious beliefs, military experience, marital status, parental status and geographic location. While the federal government recognizes six official racial categories (white, black, American Indian/Native Alaskan, Asian, Native Hawaiian and Some Other Race) one important category is noticeably absent—Hispanic.

“While it might seem odd, Hispanic is considered an ethnicity, not a race, and there is a difference,” Sonderup said.

She then listed a number of interesting statistics for each category that represent significant opportunities for advisors, including:

  • From 1974 to 2004, median income for black women rose 75%, and 72% of black women are the primary household decision makers.
  • Native Americans are experiencing enormous emerging wealth opportunities due to oil and casino revenue.
  • There are six different subsets of Asian-Americans, which can be confusing when attempting to engage them, but they also have the highest educational attainment levels and the highest median household income of any of the groups.
  • The median age of Hispanic Americans is 28. As consumers, they are just now starting to think about investing and asset protection, which also offers enormous opportunity for what advisors are trying to achieve.

She noted, however, that “Latino” is the preferred term. Latino refers to an association with the Romance languages, while Hispanic is Spanish-affiliated, which connotes subjugation and conquest.

She also noted the difference between assimilation and acculturation. The former is the process of “coming to this country and being absorbed and accepted.” The latter is about adapting and adopting, which involves keeping the best aspects of the country of their birth when arriving on American shores.

“Immigrants 100 years ago assimilated, while today’s immigrants acculturate,” Sonderup said. “Why aren’t younger immigrants assimilating? One word—technology, which in many cases simply means they no longer have to."

After offering similar insight into the gay/lesbian/transgender community as well as aging baby boomers, she concluded with an admittedly delicate discussion of religion.

“When it comes to religious diversity, 73% of the country is Christian, while Judaism accounts for 2.2% and Islam accounts for 2%. Why is this important? If you happen to live in Michigan, for instance, there is an enormous opportunity in reaching out to the Arab population. But you need to be mindful that many will invest only according to Muslim teachings. If fact, it’s forbidden to invest in companies that are contrary to Muslim teachings.”

She them moved to a discussion of the role of language in multicultural marketing, noting that eight out of 10 Hispanics and Asians rely on their native language in their homes. For this reason, she suggested bilingual marketing collateral that they discuss with other family members. She also said Spanish is a language that contains up to 25% more words than English and can take up twice the amount of space; something to consider when designing web sites and marketing pieces.

However, she also noted that in the past decade, the number of Hispanic households making over $100,000 has increase by 125%.

“Might this be an opportunity?” she rhetorically asked. “Yet no one is talking to them.”

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