The New Mainstream: How the Multicultural Consumer Is Transforming American Business

The New Mainstream: How the Multicultural Consumer Is Transforming American Business

by Guy Garcia


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060584665
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/18/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

Guy Garcia was a staff writer at Time magazine for thirteen years. The author of Skin Deep and Obsidian Sky, he is also the founding editor of the urban website More recently, he has worked on the development of AOL Latin America, AOL International, and AOL Music.

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The New Mainstream
How the Multicultural Consumer Is Transforming American Business

Chapter One

Ethnicity Inc.

It's a balmy summer day at New York City's historic South Street Seaport. Outside, tourists in T-shirts and shorts stroll the cobblestone avenues that surround the Fulton Fish Market and gape at nineteenth-century sailing ships that conjure a bygone era. A few yards away, in an air-conditioned loft with panoramic views of the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge, a hundred or so men and women in business attire are staring at a PowerPoint projection screen, trying to peer into the future. They have come to the historic Bridgewaters complex to attend the tenth annual Multicultural Equity Conference, sponsored by the Strategic Research Institute (SRI), a privately owned company that caters to the information and networking needs of executives and human resource officers in finance, technology, marketing, media, and other industries. For the better part of two days, the SRI attendees will be listening to a parade of distinguished speakers telling them everything they need to know about the multicultural economy and why they need to know it. Omar Wasow, an Internet entrepreneur and TV technology commentator who is serving as master of ceremonies, keeps things moving at a brisk talk show tempo, pacing the room with a wireless microphone and pausing occasionally for a well-timed quip. The attendees chuckle at Wasow's jokes and then continue taking notes as if their jobs depend on it, which to a certain extent they do. In a consumer environment where white non- Latinos will make up only 50 percent of the population in 2050, understanding the New Mainstream has become critical for business survival. Those who thrive in the multicultural marketplace will do so not just because of their ability to anticipate what's to come, but because they've absorbed the degree to which things have already changed.

Part data download, part meet and greet, part born-again revivalist meeting, the SRI Multicultural Equity Conference is predicated on the notion that the multicultural market is growing and that the people in the room are in the right place at exactly the right time to capitalize on it. As the conference breaks for lunch, the attendees cluster in the corridors and trade business cards. "It's gotten bigger every year," notes Rupa Ranganathan, a senior vice president of ethnic strategy for SRI who has been organizing ethnic marketing conferences for the firm since 1998. "The demographic is achieving critical mass. The mainstream is going multicultural. That is the trend. And we are at a very exciting crossroads. Because it's like when you plant a garden, and now is just the time when you see it's beginning to bloom. Earlier you had to fight for it, but now you don't have to make too much of a case for multicultural marketing, because who in their right mind is not aware of this growth?"

Ranganathan has noticed an evolution in the interests and attitudes of ethnic marketers, who are increasingly focused on the business case for diversity, which includes tracking return on investment as well as internal staffing and representation. "There are more and more sophisticated discussions at these conferences, simply because the practice is evolving very rapidly," she says. "Every year we see new topics, new buzzwords, new issues, new challenges. The next phase we are all headed to right now is how to do it right, how to do it more effectively, how to be creative. Because it's not enough to say, 'Okay, I've said it in a different language,' or 'I've used a few important cultural cues.' It's going beyond language, to where you're really empathizing and making a cultural connection." Ranganathan, who was born in India and worked in the advertising industry there before coming to the United States, sees parallels in marketing trends between America and her native country, which has long been a multiethnic, polyglot democracy. "Fifty years from now, you may not really need a South Asian or a Latino to effectively market to that segment, because hopefully there is going to be such a cross-pollination of ideas and understanding of culture and behavior issues that by that time everyone will be a global, multicultural citizen," she says. "It's all going to be mixed up. So you might find a Chinese writer coming up with an excellent creative for a Latino ad. That's something way ahead, but I see it coming."

Back in the main conference room, the mood is expectant, even conspiratorial, like that among a group of revolutionaries who know that what they are hearing will change everything, even if most people don't realize it yet. The speakers range from Ray Celaya, an assistant vice president of emerging markets at Allstate Insurance Company, to Miriam Muley, an executive director of diversity growth markets for General Motors. AT&T Wireless, Lehman Bros., Fannie Mae, and more than a dozen other major U.S. companies are also represented. Some of the speakers have come to build their brands, some have come to raise their profile or plug their new book, but every one of them is there to spread the multicultural gospel. The message of the entire conference, and others just like it in Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities across the country, is crystallized at one point in a single sentence by Jeffrey Humphreys, an economic forecaster at the Simon Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia: "We are witnessing a shift in economic power that will reshape the economic, political, and cultural landscape of America."

Humphreys has the numbers to back up his claim. The Selig Center projects that by 2008, the combined buying power of African Americans, Asians, and Native Americans will account for 14.3 percent of the nation's total, or $10.6 trillion, up from 10.7 percent in 1990.1 Latino buying power, or total income after taxes, will rise from $653 billion in 2003 to $1,014.2 billion, outpacing the buying power of African Americans, which will rise over the same period from $688 billion to $921 billion ...

The New Mainstream
How the Multicultural Consumer Is Transforming American Business
. Copyright © by Guy Garcia. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

Part ITerra Incognita1
1.Ethnicity Inc.3
2.The Tiger Effect26
3.Eye of the Beholder42
Part IIThe History of the Future111
5.Melting Pots and Salad Bowls113
6.Cowboys and Indians141
Part IIIThe Unfinished Pyramid197
9.Liquid Assets199
10.Creative Consumption217
11.Beyond the New Mainstream250
12.How Soon Is Now?265

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