Gen Z is a wholly unique generation and carving their own path as we see on our latest research initiative, We Are Gen Z, a collaboration between our research agency and Sensis. They are the largest, most ethnically diverse generational cohort the U.S. has ever seen. With Gen Z representing 26% of the population at 83 million strong, Gen Z will be reshaping multicultural marketing as we know it.
They will be the last white-majority generation with non-Hispanic whites only representing 52.9% of the generation and Hispanics representing almost a quarter of Gen Z at 23.5%. One of the most interesting developments in Gen Z is the high rate of multiracial Gen Zers, with 1 in 10 births being multiracial as of 2013. This is a huge leap since 1970, when multiracial births accounted only for 1% of new births. The high multiracial makeup of Gen Z will have profound implications for current multicultural marketing models.
According to a report by the Selig Center for Economic Growth, the buying power of multiracials is $148 billion and is expected to increase at a faster rate than that of blacks or whites in the next few years (projected growth of 32.7% vs. 30% and 26.5%, respectively). This is one of the most important trends to consider when planning for the future and taking a hard look at our current multicultural models is a first step in helping align brands to capture this fast growing consumer.
Here are three ways multiracial Gen Z will disrupt current multicultural marketing models:
1. Current multicultural models rely on racial groups being distinct such as Hispanic, African-American, and Asian
Multiracial Gen Z encompasses a broad range of racial ethnic ancestry combinations, bucking the underlying assumption that all multicultural models are currently built on. One could argue that this is no different from the construction of Hispanic and Asian as racialized groups in which diverse immigrant populations are grouped on the basis of language differences or racial sameness. The grouping of multiracials, however, is built on the foundation of multiracialism within which language, tradition, and racial identification vary. Multiracial Gen Z calls for new models to be built on the commonalities multiracials share, not on monoracial cultural assumptions.
2. There is no universal “cultural cue” for multiracial Gen Z
Culture fluidity is a key finding of We Are Gen Z across all Gen Z, multiracial and monoracial, but this fluidity is especially resonant among multiracial Gen Z as they encapsulate various ethnic backgrounds in their heritage. This complexity and fluidity of culture that is inherent to multiracial Gen Zers makes the Total Market approach difficult as it relies on finding commonalities among monoracial cultures that is interspersed throughout the entire campaign.
Multiracial Gen Z is inherently different than monoracial multicultural models of the past and if a Total Market approach is used for this group, one runs the risk of relying on stereotypes and clichés of racial mixing that can be harmful to companies and brands seeking to engage with this audience.
3. Culture matters, but it is not everything
Multicultural marketing models rely heavily on culture (as implied in the name) and Gen Z finds culture important but does not place as much emphasis on it as previous generations, according to our research. Culture fluidity plays a role in this and multiracial Gen Z is a key driver here as their heritage is drawn from multiple cultures.
Multiracial Gen Z will be a new type of cultural consumer who places weight on culture but may not necessarily be driven to purchase products or services that directly appeal to it. A better approach could be appealing to more relevant drivers among Gen Z who are more attracted to brands that help highlight Gen Z’s uniqueness or make them “look cool,” as our data suggests.
As Gen Z purchasing power increases, it will be interesting to see how the multicultural marketing world adapts to a generation that is breaking the mold that multicultural marketing has built over the past three decades. Gen Z’s unique demographic composition and views on culture and their relationships to brands will require marketers to think outside the multicultural box we have built. Understanding these unique views and reimagining what culture means in the context of the Gen Z reality will be crucial first steps to effectively market to this group. As the oldest Gen Zers start turning 21, the window of time to get to know them before their preferences solidify and they pick someone else’s brand is closing fast.