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Alf's Articles

Stay Abreast of Changes to Grab Market Share

by Alf Nucifora

As the weeks go by, the Census Bureau continues the time release of tantalizing tid-bits about its 2000 count. The macro statistics are worth noting:

  • U.S. population now stands at 281.4 million.

  • The top 10 metro markets or CMSAs (Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area) are in descending order... New York (21.2MM), Los Angeles (16.4MM), Chicago (9.2MM), Washington D.C./Baltimore (7.6MM), San Francisco (7.0MM), Philadelphia (6.2MM), Boston (5.8MM), Detroit (5.5MM), Dallas/Fort Worth (5.2MM) and Houston (4.7MM).

  • Fastest growing markets in the past decade…West Palm Beach (+7.79%), Raleigh-Durham/Chapel Hill (+7.45%), Denver (+6.77%), Atlanta (+6.61%), Dallas/Fort Worth (+6.36%) and Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point (+6.12%).

But it's the slicing and dicing of the numbers that reveal the true insights into the American make-up and who will constitute the upcoming power-buying classes in the near decades.

As expected, the dominant consumer class of the last twenty years, the Boomers, will carry their impact with them to retirement and the grave. Eighty three million strong and all due to retire within the next 30 years, Boomers will drain the Social Security and Medicare systems, put onerous strain on the already suffering, highly-inefficient healthcare system and continue to drive demand in many major consumer buying categories from travel to pharmaceuticals. Who will foot the bill? Increasingly not the younger demographic. While the nation's median age rose during the last decade from 32.9 to 35.3, the important Gen X population (20-34) experienced shrinkage.

Attacking the cherished beliefs.

To many a mainstream American, the nation dwells in a fantasyland comprised primarily of white, Anglo-Saxon, Caucasians, predominantly Protestant, living in a traditional, nuclear family, with married, heterosexual parents and an average of 2.6 well-raised children with names like Biff and Scooter. As recently noted in the Atlanta Journal/Constitution, the Census data change (1990-2000) shows that nothing could be further from the truth. For example:

  • The number of married households has dropped from 55.1% in 1990 to 51.7% in 2000. Blame increasing divorce rates and marriage delays driven by career choice as the main reasons for the drop.

  • Households headed by females increased three times as fast as the traditional married couple unit.

  • Female-headed households with children grew four times as fast as married households with children (under 18).

  • The number of people living alone increased almost 21% to more than 27 million.

  • The number of unmarried partners increased a staggering 72%.

What this means is that marketers must come to terms with the fact that the complexion of the U.S. consumer marketplace is made up of an increasingly fractionated mosaic where the traditional 1950's-like needs, values and behavior are no relevant or applicable. The once homogeneous consumer class is now a collection of fractious slivers that seeks demassified solutions to every need from political platforms to television viewing to automobile color, size and shape.

A Nation of Many Hues

As demographers have already noted, many major cities and regions of the U.S. will ultimately possess majority populations comprised, in the aggregate, of non-white, non-Caucasian backgrounds. Again the Census data proves revealing:

  • Hispanics totaled 35.3 million in 2000, 9% more than the Bureau had earlier estimated. In fact, the greater than expected increase in the Hispanic population was one of the major surprises of the 2000 Census according to the Bureau. Incidentally, half of all Hispanics live in California and Texas with approximately 77% residing in those two states plus Florida, Illinois, Arizona and New Jersey.

  • The African-American population was reported at 34.7 million (a 3.1% increase).

  • Asian-Americans led the pack with an astounding 48% growth rate from 6.9 million in 1990 to 10.2 million in 2000. While Chinese form the largest Asian block at 2.4 million, the fastest growing Asian sub-set comprises people from the Indian Continent.

For marketers, what this means is that ethnicity is no longer a triviality to be addressed as an adjunct activity in the marketing mix when time and excess marketing funds permit. Today's small business marketer, in particular, must acknowledge and accept the fact that ethnicity and diversity in marketing and purchasing practice is now a mandatory consideration. Brand positioning should acknowledge it. Product offering should mirror it. Advertising and communications language should reflect it. And sales practice should accommodate it.

If there is one thing we are learning from the recent Census it is that the commonly held perceptions of the consumer landscape no longer apply. America is rapidly moving from "e pluribus unum" (out of many…one) to an authentically hybrid nation of ethnic and religious diversity not to mention dual-working parents, single moms, same-sex partnerships and other demographic shifts. For the marketer, it will be wise to remember that the exception is fast becoming the norm.

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