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19 January, 2016 - 17:13

People’s ethnic backgrounds have a big impact on what they buy. If you’ve visited a grocery store that caters to a different ethnic group than your own, you were probably surprised to see the types of products sold there.

It’s no secret that the United States is becoming—and will continue to become—more diverse. Hispanic Americans are the largest and the fastest-growing minority in the United States. Companies are going to great lengths to court this once overlooked group. In California, the health care provider Kaiser Permanente runs television ads letting members of this segment know that they can request Spanish-speaking physicians and that Spanish-speaking nurses, telephone operators, and translators are available at all of its clinics. 1

African Americans are the second-largest ethnic group in America. Collectively, they have the most buying power of any ethnic group in America. Many people of Asian descent are known to be early adapters of new technology and have above-average incomes. As a result, companies that sell electronic products, such as AT&T, spend more money segmenting and targeting the Asian community.  2 Table 5.3 Major U.S. Ethnic Segments and Their Spending contains information about the number of people in these groups and their buying power.

Table 5.3 Major U.S. Ethnic Segments and Their Spending


Percentage of U.S. Population

Annual Spending Power (Billions of Dollars)




African American







As you can guess, even within various ethnic groups there are many differences in terms of the goods and services buyers choose. Consequently, painting each group with a broad brush would leave you with an incomplete picture of your buyers. For example, although the common ancestral language among the Hispanic segment is Spanish, Hispanics trace their lineages to different countries. Nearly 70 percent of Hispanics in the United States trace their lineage to Mexico; others trace theirs to Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.

All Asians share is race. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean immigrants do not share the same language. 3 Moreover, both the Asian and Hispanic market segments include new immigrants, people who immigrated to the United States years ago, and native-born Americans. So what language will you use to communicate your offerings to these people, and where?

Subsegmenting the markets could potentially help you. New American Dimension, a multicultural research firm, has further divided the Hispanic market into the following subsegments:

  • Just moved in’rs. Recent arrivals, Spanish dependent, struggling but optimistic.
  • FOBrs (fashionistas on a budget). Spanish dominant, traditional, but striving for trendy.
  • Accidental explorers. Spanish preferred, not in a rush to embrace U.S. culture.
  • The englightened. Bilingual, technology savvy, driven, educated, modern.
  • Doubting Tomáses. Bilingual, independent, skeptical, inactive, shopping uninvolved.
  • Latin flavored. English preferred, reconnecting with Hispanic traditions.
  • SYLrs (single, young latinos). English dominant, free thinkers, multicultural.

You could go so far as to break down segments to the individual level (which is the goal behind one-to-one marketing). However, doing so would be dreadfully expensive, notes Juan Guillermo Tornoe, a marketing expert who specializes in Hispanic marketing issues. After all, are you really going to develop different products for each of the groups? Different marketing campaigns and communications? Perhaps not. However, “you need to perform your due diligence and understand where the majority of the people you are trying to reach land on this matrix, modifying your message according to this insight,” Tornoe explains. 4