Demographic detail
The cultural melting pot

The cultural melting pot

Like many large countries, the US consists of people from many different cultures and ethnic backgrounds.

What’s unique about the great nation, however, is how these different backgrounds have mixed and continue to influence the mainstream of US culture.

To get a picture of this cultural mix, it’s worth looking at a few figures from the 2010 US census. This figure shows the race breakdown of the United States as a whole.


(This chart is borrowed from the 2010 Census: United State Profile. For other and more detailed demographic information, see the US Census 2010.)

Based on a total population of 311 million, cultural diversity is as follows:

  • 50.7 million Hispanic or Latino
  • 39.1 million African Americans
  • 14.9 million Asian Americans
  • 2.8 million American Indians or Alaska Native
  • 19.2 million of other race

But this is only part of the picture. From city to city and state to state, the breakdown looks very different. In the State of California, for example, which has a population of 37.3 million, more than a third (14 million) are Hispanic.

And as if this diversity isn’t enough to consider, the make-up of US society is continually changing:

  • More than half of the growth in the total population of the United States between 2000 and 2010 was due to the increase in the Hispanic population
  • The Asian population grew faster than any other major race group between 2000 and 2010
  • Many people consider themselves of multiple races

Who is your US target audience?

It’s clear that even with so-called minorities, you may be dealing with populations larger than any other demographic group you’ve approached before – and larger than many single countries. Of course, this is part of what makes the US such an attractive market. Not only is this massive cultural diversity one of the reasons the US offers so much opportunity, but it also highlights the challenge of adapting your message.

But if the key to creating effective messages is understanding the audience, how do you accurately profile the average American? He could just as easily be a Puerto Rican in Brooklyn or Scandinavian in Minnesota. She might be an Asian rapper in Miami or an African-American surfer in San Diego. Because of this diversity, we can’t assume we know how Americans think, or that they’re like anyone else. The makeup of American society is so very different to the rest of the world; it’s too big and diverse for a single message.

This is perhaps the first major hurdle to overcome, particularly if you are used to targeting a market that you are familiar with and that thinks the same as you do. In particular, it can be difficult for companies from mono-cultural countries as they are simply not used to bringing diversity into their marketing strategies.

It comes as no surprise, then, that perhaps the most important aspect of communicating to US markets is demographic research. Knowing exactly who you’re trying to reach is half the battle.

Here are a few resources to get you started on how to consider diverse demographics in your marketing:

Overview of new Census data about the changing consumer profiles in the US

How changes in the economy are changing American consumers

Nielsen’s overview (and downloadable report) on the African-American consumer

In-depth look at how brands are targeting US Hispanic markets

Revealing data on how the “average” American consumer spends his paycheck











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