2020 marked the first time any American demographic segment—in this case, 17 and under—became a multicultural majority, making cultural fluency an imperative for marketers and major social currency for content creators. The power of culture in America will continue to escalate as the under 35 segment becomes a multicultural majority by 2028 and those under 50 by 2033. Culture is currently at the heart of two separate mega-entertainment trends.
In-Culture Media…Strong, Relevant & Personally Gratifying
Many marketers think of Hispanic marketing as serving only the Spanish reliant, despite most Hispanics under 50 being bilingual and not Spanish-reliant. Bilingual Hispanics connect to in-culture content in both English and Spanish and choose to view Spanish-language content because they “want” to, not because they “need” to. It comes down to the unique gratification that only in-culture content can provide.
The Spanish language is a powerful connection to culture with eight in 10 Hispanics of all ages from 13 to 49 choosing to watch Spanish-language TV on traditional channels, like Telemundo and Univision. Ninety-four percent of Hispanic teens were born in the U.S., and 75 percent of them choose to watch Hispanic in-culture SVOD content (subscription video such as Netflix, Prime or Disney+) originally produced in Spanish, as do 83 percent of Hispanic parents ages 25 to 49. In fact, 40 percent of Hispanic 13-49 SVOD viewing is in Spanish, according to the Hispanic Marketing Council’s 2020 study on Gen Z and parents.
And connecting to in-culture content is not only in Spanish—it is in English as well, especially in online content. In 2018, HMC research found that Hispanics 13-17 spent 43 percent of their online time within in-culture content regardless of language and 53 percent for Hispanics 18-49. Non-Hispanic Blacks 13-17 and 18-49 spent 43 percent of their online time within in-culture content. In other words, the connection to culture-based content is strong.
STARZ began specifically targeting Black viewers in 2017 with relevant, in-culture and overall content—in fact, two-and-a-half times as many non-Hispanic Black Gen Zers and parents surveyed by HMC watch STARZ compared to non-Blacks. It is all about authentic culture nuance embedded in your stories—not merely casting Hispanics or Blacks in roles that feel inauthentic, easy to do when nine of 10 film and eight of 10 scripted TV writers and directors are non-Hispanic White, according to statistics data by the Bureau of Labor.
Cross-Culture Media… Exploring Cultures Beyond Your Own Is Fun, Interesting and Stretches Cultural Literacy “Muscles”
Across TV, movies, social media, and music, Americans are increasingly exploring cultures beyond their own. In data from MRC (2020) and previously Nielsen (2017), the percent share of total music industry consumption by genre declined 2017 to 2020 for most genres with only R&B/Hip Hop growing by one percent. What did grow, doubling its share, was World music. BTS, the Korean K-pop group delivered three Hot 100 #1 singles in a three-month period of 2020, a feat not accomplished since the Beatles in 1964. Also important to note: four of the top 10 2020 YouTubers in America are from other countries: two from India, one from Sweden and one from Brazil.
The biggest cross-culture explosion has recently been seen in TV/Film long-form formats. Parrot Analytic data indicates that non-U.S. shows represent 29 percent of total U.S. demand as of Q4 in 2020, growing 21 percent since Q2 in 2018. As reported by Axios in February 2021, Netflix claimed that viewing of non-English titles by U.S. Netflix subscribers increased more than 50 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. Netflix, currently producing 63 percent of their new first season originals outside the U.S., is taking the lead on this trend with Amazon Prime coming in second at 43 percent.
Fueled primarily by Netflix’s worldwide programming strategy with content such as Money Heist (Spain), Giri/Haji (Japan/U.K.), Dark (Germany), and most recently, Lupin (France)and Sisyphus: The Myth (Korea), coupled with YouTube’s global organic content, HMC research found that 53 percent of people 13 to 49 are watching TV/movie content in a language they do not speak, especially Hispanics at 68 percent. These in-culture content connections can potentially act as a powerful force to build cultural fluency and empathy.
Speaking to the value of cultural authenticity, according to Axios, Bella Bajaria, Netflix head of global TV said, “shows that have travelled well globally have all been authentically from that country,” echoing Netflix COO & Chief Product Officer Greg Peters, who said that viewers “want a perspective from a passionate creator that’s grounded in the local culture.” The Korean hit series Squid Game became the first non-English title to amass more than 100 million global viewers during its opening weeks. Money Heist, a Netflix Spanish-language heist telenovela, was #1 globally in any language, with season 3 viewed by 34 million households in its first week. The French mystery thriller, Lupin, has reached more than 70 million household since its January 8 debut.
Also popular with HMC study participants were Bollywood, Nollywood and Turkish soap operas—in fact, Univision has capitalized on this trend with Imperio de Mentiras, its adaptation of the Turkish soap opera Kara Para, Ask, and is currently airing a dubbed version of La Hija del Embajador.
The Takeaway for Brands
Just as Netflix utilizes “authentic storytelling… grounded in the local culture,” it is the same when it comes to telling your brand story. The most powerful brand messages are grounded in culture to forge meaningful and authentic connections.
Take a page from SVOD and YouTube:
With nine of 10 chief executives and advertising, promotions, sales & marketing managers being non-Hispanic white, brands can easily get caught up in a mono-cultural feedback loop. Cultural literacy is now crucial to both protect and optimize brands in the new multicultural reality. America is becoming increasingly culturally fluent. Are your brand’s marketing efforts?