A Changing America Challenges Business

By Sara Rider   |   June 6, 2014

America is in the midst of two major changes that will dramatically affect the services companies offer and how they promote those services or business.  A lot has been said about the graying of America as baby boomers age.  But America isn’t just becoming gray—it’s becoming a rainbow.  And companies will need to decide how both their advertising and their products are going to appeal to that rainbow.

The PewResearchCenter has released a new book that explores these changes, The Next America.  The bottom line is that America is becoming multicultural and older simultaneously.  That means longer life spans—and lower birth rates.  So there will be more competition for the consumer—and the lifelong value of a loyal customer may become even greater.

The ads we all watched during the Super Bowl and the Olympics showed us how companies like Chevy and Coke are in tune with the ways the country is changing, depicting a wide range of different types of families.  Because that’s what America looks like today. According to Pew, in 1960, 85 percent of Americans were white.  By 2060, only 43 percent will be white.  At the same time, more than 40 million immigrants have come to our shores since 1965—about half of them are Hispanic and nearly 30 percent are Asian.

And we’re not just different colors—we’re blended colors.  Some 50 years ago, intermarriage was illegal in one-third of the states.  Today, one in six newlyweds marry across racial or ethnic lines.  As we become more blended, how long will the old ethnic or racial categories even apply?

The challenge for businesses—and for advertisers—is to not only represent this changing world, but to think about the services this new America will need and want.  Today’s young people are the first generation to grow up with cell phones, iPads, and Siri as a way of life.  By comparison, the people running the largest companies in America are older and whiter.  According to Forbes, 50 is the average age when someone becomes a CEO.  And according to DiversityInc, only 1.2 percent of Fortune 500 companies CEOs are black, 1.8 percent are Asian, 1.6 percent are latino, and 4.6 percent are women.

For companies to flourish, the first step will be to acknowledge that America is not what it was 50 years ago—and to anticipate what it might become 50 years from now.

It’s an exciting challenge.


by Sara Rider

Sara Rider

About the Author

Sara Rider, Vice President at DeLaune & Associates, has written extensively for the healthcare, financial, non-profit, and technology industries for more than 30 years.

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