Expert's Opinion

Color Blind Is Short-Sighted And Blurs Your Potential

By Rochelle Newman-Carrasco, Walton Isaacson | November 25, 2013

A new generation is very cool and comfortable with color.

There’s a myth about millennials that seems to be making its way into the belief-systems of marketers across America. It’s the notion that Millennials are Color Blind. The more I keep hearing that phrase, the more research I do to establish what the actual attitudes of Millennials are to race and ethnicity. The result of both qualitative and quantitative research confirms that Color Blind is an inaccurate representation of what is happening in Millennial America.
Millennials, those consumers who fall between the ages of 18 and 33, are part of a generation for whom ethnic and lifestyle diversity was the rule rather than the exception. Their level of comfort about race, “color” and differences in life choices is evident.  One can see it in the friends they choose and in the ways that they accept their parent’s lives and even influence these older generations as well. 
What Millennials prove to be is Color Comfortable or Color Cool. As a result of embracing diversity and culture, they are even greater fans of companies that demonstrate a comfort with color as well. Diverse friends, co-workers and family members, including an increase in biracial parents and children, make millennials aware of distinct needs for products that reflect the skin tones and hair textures of a multicultural community.  The idea that there would be limited accessibility to these products or a lack of vision in the creation of such product lines is baffling to the Millennial segment. Entrepreneurial in spirit, they will soon create product lines that reflect society as it stands today and tomorrow if gaps are not filled.
Diversity is prevalent in all of the ethnic subsegments, and acknowledging this is important to connecting with credibility and authenticity.  Black consumers, whose skin tones and hair textures are not homogeneous, and whose backgrounds include African American, African and Caribbean consumers to name a few.  Realizing that Hispanic or Latino is not a race, but an ethnicity, means being inclusive of Hispanics of all races and interracial backgrounds, from white to brown to black to Asian and beyond.  Asian consumers are certainly diverse as well. Not only linguistically, but also culturally and physically, making fashion and beauty a diverse spectrum of possibilities and not a one-size-fits all check-the-box initiative.
So how can marketers earn the respect of Millennials when it comes to Cultural credibility?
• Don’t make Color Blind and Language Deaf descriptions of tolerance and progress.  To quote Millennial respondents in focus groups, “Don’t dumb us down.”  Millennials are embracing bilingualism (and tri-lingualism) viewing them as an asset, not a deficit.  And skin color is what it is, and shouldn’t be viewed as something to erase – but rather something to embrace.

• Look for insights that come from consumers of all walks of life.  Don’t only think of diversity as a casting technique, but make it mandatory in your insight and consumer research work.  At the same time, don’t be so quick to neutralize cultural distinctions by creating a diverse focus group, in which people of color are “peppered” in for good measure.   Consumers are comfortable adapting their cultures in a chameleon-esque manner.  They won’t voice much about their differences with a highly diverse group, preferring to blend in than stand out unnecessarily.   An in-culture group will often produce distinct results in terms of deeper insights that speak to things learned during childhood or things that are specific to their community’s cultural dynamics. 

• Develop products and messaging that put multicultural consumers at the forefront.  Reprioritize how you bring messages into the market or line extensions.  Start thinking of the multicultural majority as opposed to maintaining a minority after thought perspective.

• Remember that Millennials are living at home later and are not in such conflict with their parents as other generations have been.  As a result, multi-generational perspectives may also serve your brand’s best interest and portray your brand in the most inclusive light.
So the next time your tempted to call a Millennial color blind, open your eyes and look around. The more vision you show in your approach to multicultural consumers today, the more you’ll be prepared for setting your sights on 2020 and beyond.

About the Author
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco serves as Walton Isaacson’s (WI) Chief Hispanic Marketing Strategist. She leads a team of Hispanic marketing specialists across the Agency’s offices with a focus on driving business-building results through the use of relevant and actionable cultural insights. WI’s forward thinking approach to the ever-changing and evolving U.S. Hispanic market has been instrumental in connecting bilingual, bicultural consumers with brands that include Lexus, Unilever, The Los Angeles Dodgers, Hillshire and White Memorial Medical Center.

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