From “Melting Pot” to “Salad Bowl”

By Alexa Frank, Assistant Account Executive

Our TWO Sense: From Melting Pot to Salad Bowl

“Every 10 years tax payers receive a gift…” explains Kelly McDonald, marketing and consumer trends expert, “…the census!” You may not have thought of it this way before, but the census is key to modern marketing and advertising. As McDonald speaks about marketing and advertising she begs her audience to think, “How can you serve your local community if you don’t know who your community is?” Many people believe they’re aware of the overall tone of their community, but what they don’t realize is the rate at which the demographics in the United States is changing. For example, McDonald points out an astonishing figure that there are 48.7 million Latinos in the US making the US the second largest Hispanic country in the world. Moreover, there are more Latinos living in the United States than there are Canadians living in Canada! Furthermore, The Hispanic population is the fasted growing population in the US… and by 2049 white will be considered a minority. 

Many people automatically think of diversity as the ethnic differences, but diversity has many forms. McDonald urges her audience to consider gender, religion, age, generation, gay and lesbian, physical abilities, rural and metro, political beliefs, military and civilians, race, ethnic and language differences, nativity, life stage, lifestyle and affluence, core values and even diversity within diversity. For example, in describing diversity many people tend to “clump” groups together as a way to organize this division, but this isn’t necessarily accurate. Consider the US Asian composition, there isn’t one common language, food, traditions or holiday… yet we lump them together and label it “Asian”. Consider the Hispanic population, they do have a common language, but they have different foods, holidays, traditions and nativities (Cuban, Venezuelan, Mexican…etc.)

The census has not only provided us with surprising demographics but it has also shown multiple other key findings. McDonalds recognizes these main themes to be diversity, cultural generation gap, rural to urban shifts, minorities moving to suburbs, young people postponing marriage, and bright flight. The new term bright flight refers to young educated people leaving their rural communities behind and moving to the city. The composition of our cities, suburbs, and rural areas are shifting and our country is experiencing radically changing demographics. In other words we are experiencing business evolution. Communities today look nothing like they did 10 years ago, and 10 years from now they’re not going to look anything like they do today.

In the US right now 1 in 9 people are foreign born. Our culture has changed. The old expression that America is a “Melting Pot” no longer holds true. McDonald expresses the modern term coined now is that America is a “Salad Bowl”. If you look at the elements of a salad, none of the pieces of the salad look alike. They’re all different, distinguishable, and combined the components compose a salad.

So how does this affect marketing and advertising? Professionals now need to learn to market to people not like themselves. The old idea of throwing your net as wide as possible and hoping to get as many people and fish as you can will not work.

Here’s a couple of ideas:

  • Take a look at your current customer base and how you are segmenting them.  Are you considering multiple dimensions in addition to ethnicity?
  • Reevaluate your current customer base in comparison to your customer base 5 years ago.  What changes do you see?  Does this affect your message?
  • Consider how you could improve marketing to your specific target(s). Are you trying to use a one size fits all strategy? Try and formulate individual approaches that appeal to each segment’s values.

The new world is already here and it’s time to wake up, smell the coffee, and work to make diversity a true aspect and an ongoing part of your marketing plan!