When you think of the word “Americana,” what images come to mind? Most likely baseball, picnics, white picket fences and classic suburbia. At its core, the idea of Americana is all about classic elements and traditions of American life. While this depiction still holds true in pockets around the United States, across the rest of the country it is just one of the many different lenses of modern American life.
The idea of “Modern Americana” recognizes the value of traditions both old and new, and acknowledges the diversity of experiences that exist today. As we approach the end of the summer and begin shifting to holiday mode, there are opportunities to market both the classic Americana occasions (e.g., Labor Day, Thanksgiving) and embrace the new traditions many Americans are planning to celebrate (e.g., Dia de Los Muertos, Friendsgiving, World Pride Day).
Many marketers still chase the idealized “nuclear family,” but in 2017 it was estimated that less than 20% of U.S. households were composed by such family structure, according to Media in Mind. To this day, there is still some discomfort from brands about venturing beyond their comfort zone and some concerns about potentially alienating a brand’s core base. However, as competition for the same core audiences (e.g., Moms, Millennials) grows, more brands are finding they have to expand to different segments (e.g., Hispanics, LGBTQ) to avoid falling behind.
A brand’s first step towards broader representation is acknowledging that there are many more stories of American families to be told beyond the nuclear family. Cheerios and Barbie have been praised as pioneers for telling stories that showcase interracial couples, same-sex parents, and changing gender roles. Do the roles for your brand differ in urban and rural areas? What is the influence of grandparents in the household you are targeting? How can your brand help immigrants feel more welcome? These are just some of the many questions a marketer could ask to add more meaningful representation to a brand’s world.
Many of our communications still depict home as the center of family life. But for many Americans, the idea of home can take on many different forms and meanings. For those who live in different cities than the ones they grew up in, home can be more than one location. For those who have migrated from other countries, home is where they feel welcomed and belong. Brands such as Airbnb and Gold Peak Tea portray home as more of a feeling that could be experienced anywhere. Others like StreetEasy think of home as being the middle ground between where you are currently and where you want to be. Each of these concepts represent one of the many ways Americans see and value the idea home.
Retailers and brands have already begun to finalize their plans for Thanksgiving this year, but have they also considered giving any attention to those who plan to host Friendsgiving? Following last year’s success of Coco, are marketers thinking about consumers who are about to start a Dia de Los Muertos celebration in the days following Halloween? Next summer, World Pride Day will be celebrated in New York City to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall March. Are advertisers in tune enough with the LGBTQ+ community and their allies (e.g., family, friends) to join the celebration?
There is much more depth to American life and culture today than we have historically chosen to portray. Acknowledging the unique experiences opens up new avenues for our brands to drive relevant engagement and growth. With more opportunities than ever to tell diverse stories and support new traditions, the question remains — will marketers and brands embrace them now or wait to join the bandwagon later?