The winning impact of cross-cultural and Hispanic themes in advertising


How does advertising work?  The dominant model for ad success today is based on “salesmanship,” where ads capture conscious attention, communicate benefits, and drive recall. The salesmanship model views the human mind as a calculator, making decisions based on the rational evaluation of costs and benefits. Marketing legend Philip Kotler sums up this perspective well, arguing that ads should “inform, persuade, or remind.”

Of course, marketers have always known that an appeal to reason and logic only gets you so far.  Indeed, advertisers have relied heavily on emotion and psychology since the end of the 19th century.  But until recently, the assumption remained that the point of advertising, whether rational or emotional, was to motivate a conscious process enabling evaluation and recall.

But over the past decade, our understanding of human decision-making has radically changed.  In popular consciousness, the decision-making that precipitated the Great Recession, as well as the rise of social and political bubbles powered by “alternative facts,” are clear indicators that the human mind is by no means a purely rational calculator. And in academia, theories depending on rational choice models and conscious processes have been buried under new evidence for the power of precognitive emotions.

According to the dual system model made famous by Daniel Kahneman, human beings make choices in two ways.  The first stage is the precognitive “System 1” process, formed via innate characteristics, gut feelings, and early experience, as well as sustained or repeated behavior. The second stage uses the intentional “System 2” process, requiring conscious application, logic and evidence.  In some interpretations of dual process theory, System 1 makes all the decisions, with System 2 merely providing ex post facto rationalization. But even if System 2 does some of the work, we now know that the brain can make a decision seven seconds before you know it.

As a marketer, shouldn’t your job be easier armed with these powerful scientific insights? If only: the problem is that if you want to target System 1, marketers must appeal to audiences with multiple, and often opposed, ways of seeing the world that are hard wired into their decision-making processes.

In other words, we are shifting from an advertising paradigm dominated by universal appeals to conscious thought, evidence and logic, towards one where messages resonating with one segment’s precognitive emotions may backfire for another. To make matters worse, conventional metrics and norms focused on awareness and recall appeal to the System 2 processes and thereby provide an incomplete picture.

To help members better market to diverse America, we decided to weigh in with our own proprietary approach which we call AdRate.  In our inaugural AdRate initiative, we incorporated facial tracking technology and machine learning techniques into a survey of almost 4000 consumers.  Using this approach, we can model what works and what does not for different demographics.  We also developed dashboards incorporating innovative “Groundswell,” “Backlash” and “Net Groundswell” metrics that directly measure how consumers’ minds are changed.

For this analysis, we identified what works and what doesn’t across 30 recent ads in two studies. In the first study, we compared the effects of socially inclusive messages, diverse casting, and appeals to traditional American themes, as well as the applications of other content and structural factors.  We found found distinctly different responses for African American and bicultural Hispanics as reported here.

In the second study, we evaluated different strategies for reaching Hispanic audiences, including Spanish functional ads, Spanish-language ads with Hispanic cues, English ads with Hispanic cues and English total market ads.

Findings are in the attached, and our Spanish language findings will be separately detailed in a forthcoming study.

Topline findings from the study are below:

Win with “peak sentimentality”

This emotion represents a mix of sadness and surprise associated with a sudden pang of longing, nostalgia and wistfulness.  We found that across all segments, peak sentimentality is the emotion most predictive of the desire to share an ad with others, the perception that the message is important, and an improvement in the opinion of the brand. Marketers succeed in capturing viewers’ hearts and minds (and wallets) when the ad tells a story that elicits this emotion and ties it to the brand effectively.

Fuse brand and message in the close

We found that ads win with consumer when successfully interweave branding moments and the narrative, especially in the close.  We performed a paired comparison of ads from Honeymade and Tylenol that particularly exemplify the power of the close to make or break an ad.

Take some risks with messages of inclusion and diverse casting

We found that overall, cross-cultural messages, specifically inclusion messaging and diverse casting, drive the highest groundswell for the Total Market, versus functional ads and ads with American themes. Backlash does increase for some audiences, but not enough to offset the benefit for the majority of the total market.

Cultural cues deeply resonate for all Hispanics

In our Hispanic-focused test, we found that Hispanic cues drive positive response across all levels of acculturation.  And as long as ads in Spanish are simple and convey universal themes like love of family, they will likely do well with English-dominant Hispanics as well.

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Contact us now to explore an innovative approach to ad testing, measure groundswell and backlash and to discover what works and what doesn’t


Is What You Think of Trump’s Fan Base Fake News?

Election results are rolling in as we go to print, but in all likelihood you are reading this in the wake of the historic midterm election results. Our stock in trade is Multicultural, Gen Z and Millennial research, but in this post we take a Total Market view to anticipate the election results, with a focus on white ethnocentrism.

The appeal to that segment could not be more clear. Donald Trump continued to reinforce the threat of immigration right up until the last day of campaigning for the midterms, a message he’s been perpetuating since the very inception of his campaign for president. Despite increasing polarization, it’s undeniable that Trump’s fan base is steadfast in their support of him. Loyal to the “make America great again” slogan, the president’s supporters are typically understood to be older voters who hail from white, rural, small-town America.  As if to confirm this exact scenario, the president has spent most of his time campaigning away from urban cores, strongholds of the Democrats.

Data from our recent America in 2018 research, however contradict prevalent assumption that white people in urban areas (which we defined as counties with populations greater than 50,000 and with 90% or more living in high density urban environments) are less likely to respond Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. Yet again, the prevailing assumptions about  Trump’s fan base may not hold water.

In our study we asked, “to what degree are you concerned about the loss of majority status for European Americans?” We asked survey participants to rank their answer on a 5-point scale, where 5 indicated highest concern and categorized respondents as “ethnocentric” if they answer 4 or 5.  Of the 1421 survey respondents identifying as white, 22% were “ethnocentric” using this measure.

We identified four major takeaways:

No surprise: ethnocentricity in Gen Z is uniformly low.

All Gen Z segments report lower ethnocentricity than older generations.

Aging and urbanicity are strongly correlated with ethnocentricity.

We found that ethnocentricism among whites peaks among older Millennials and gen Xers, but declines among Boomers. In addition, we found that higher urbanicity is correlated with higher ethnocentricism among whites.

Older Millennial and Gen X males living in urban areas are the most concerned about losing majority status.

Ethnocentricity among women peaks in Gen X

Recent academic research confirms that exposure to diversity in urban environments can increase ethnocentricity among whites. In this Harvard study, researchers focused on attitudinal changes towards immigration by analyzing the reactions of white commuter rail riders after seeing Mexican immigrants at their train platform. The data shows that initially, people responded negatively to outsiders. While those negative feelings were ultimately reduced during the course of the study, they never completely subsided. This confirms the theory that urbanicity doesn’t necessarily make you more open to a diverse population, even if it means being at the center of a multicultural and vibrant melting pot.

As we go to print we don’t yet know whether the results in key swing districts in urban areas will reveal that white individuals voted in favor of Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda, or that they voted to break with that appeal to instinct. For marketers, the challenge could not be more clear, that the increase in polarization across the media creates major opportunities to appeal to a diverse consumer base even as it increases the risk of backlash.  In this climate, Collage Group provides the tools marketers need to navigate the Total Market through the turbulence of consumer sentiment and behavior.

2017 American Community Survey: First Look

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released preliminary estimates from the 2017 American Community Survey. We’ve been digging through the data to identify and analyze demographic changes likely to impact your markets, and uncovered a few interesting nuggets. Key takeaways include:

• The US population grew by 2.6 million people in 2017
• Asians and Hispanics accounted for almost 80% of 2017’s population growth, but less than 25% of the total population
• The Asian Indian sub-population grew by 7.4% this year
• Asians replaced Latin Americans as the largest portion of foreign born residents entering the U.S. since 2010
• 63% of all Asians residing in the US—almost 12 million—are foreign born


Asians and Hispanics Drove 2017 Population Growth
The U.S. population grew by almost 2.6 million people in 2017, bringing the annual growth rate back in line with the decade-long trend of greater than 2% annual growth. As the table below shows, most of the 2017 growth is due to the Asian and Hispanic populations. When combined, these two groups account for 81% of total population growth, despite the fact they constitute less than one quarter of the total U.S population in 2017.

A closer look reveals that the 2017 growth rate for both of these populations exceeded the previous 5-year average. As the graph below illustrates, the growth rate for Asians was more than 1.4 percentage points higher in 2017 (3.8%), while the growth rate for Hispanics was 0.9 percentage points higher (2.5%). Let’s look at what’s driving growth in these population.

Central and South Americans Driving Hispanic Growth 
The Central American and South American sub-populations are the major drivers of growth in the Hispanic population this year. The rate of growth for both of these sub-populations exploded in 2017, while growth in the Mexican Hispanic sub-population continued its steady decline.

The Central American sub-population grew by 240,000 people—mostly Guatemalans and Salvadorans. The South American sub-population grew by 260,000 people—more than 50% of this growth is due to the Colombian and Venezuelan sub-population. Despite its comparatively low growth rate, the Mexican Hispanic population added 412,000 people in 2017. And the Dominican Republic sub-population grew by almost 160,000 people.

Indian, Filipino, and Chinese Drove Asian Growth
Though the Asian population is comprised of 22 sub-populations, Indians, Filipinos, and Chinese drove most of the growth in 2017. This isn’t terribly surprising given the size of these sub-populations—together they account for 60% of the Asian population—about 11.2 million people. The most stunning finding is that the Indian subgroup grew at 7.4% in 2017. In the past five years, this group has grown by more than 25%—roughly 900,000 thousand people.

Asians Outpacing Hispanics on Immigration
2017’s explosive Asian growth rate is related to two other findings. First, foreign-born residents arriving in the U.S after 2009 are now more likely to be from an Asian country than a Latin American country. This finding, first reported by the New York Times, is based on an analysis conducted by William H. Frey of the Brookings Institute. Frey’s analysis found that 41% of all immigrants arriving in the U.S. between 2010 and 2017 were Asian, while only 39% came from Latin America. Despite this shift towards more Asian immigrants, about half of all foreign-born residents are Hispanic.

Second, the Asian portion of the foreign born population grew by 2 percent—from 26.6% to 27.1%—between 2016 and 2017. Presently, 63% of the entire Asian population in the US—about 12 million people—is foreign born. The Hispanic population, in comparison, only has 19.8 million foreign-born residents, roughly 33.5% of the Hispanic population.


The U.S. Census Bureau will continue releasing data from the 2017 survey over the next few weeks, and we’ll be doing deeper dives to understand how the U.S. population is changing. We’ll make sure to update you as we learn more!

Read more about America’s changing demographics:

The Big Shift 2017

2016 ACS at a Glance 

2015 ACS at a Glance


gen-Z “Family Values” offers new ground for marketers tapping into cultural themes

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In Taking a Stance: Examining millennial and gen-Z political issue positions, we established that despite being more likely than millennials to self-identify as conservative, gen-Z is decidedly progressive in its political leanings. It is possible, however, that gen-Z’s flavor of conservatism is distinct from that of millennials, and it will be important for brands to understand the nuances of gen-Z’s social divides.

Collage Group has sought to explain these differential outcomes, making them a core focus of our Ad Rating Survey. As part of the survey, we asked respondents to take an unambiguous stance on 13 selected social trends, in four categories:

After analyzing the results for both generations and race and ethnicity we found several interesting takeaways:

Rather than featuring a strict divide between liberals and conservatives, the generational ideological battleground has three categories.

The largest group is Social Liberal (44% of the population), which tends to approve of trends across all four categories, followed by Social Conservative, with 29% of the population tending to disapprove of all the mentioned trends. A third group, however, responded positively to trends regarding race, youth, and activism, but negatively on non-traditional family trends.

gen-Z consumers are substantially more likely to feature Family Values than Social Conservatism

While gen-Z is more comfortable with same-sex parents and interracial couples than millennials, they are more wary towards single mothers, stay-at-home dads, and unmarried partners. This implies that for gen-Z, Family Values is more concerned with family structure than family membership.

Women are at the center of youth Social Liberalism

Given the salience of the 2016 Women’s March, the 2017 #MeToo movement, and the surge of women running for political office in 2018, the importance of gender in discussions of social ideology cannot be ignored. Among gen-Z and millennial panelists, a strong majority of women are Social Liberal (58%), while only 45% of men fall into that category. Millennial and gen-Z women are more united in their liberal social leanings than men of the same age.

Understanding how Family Values shapes generational social views is essential for marketing to these fast growing and influential consumer segments. To learn more about how you can leverage these preferences to produce valuable brand outcomes, please complete the form below.


Marketers Need to Rethink How to Mix Multicultural Themes and American Cues in Advertising

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“Family Values” allows marketers to better target multicultural consumers

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It’s a common assumption in messaging research that multicultural consumers are liberal, but when brands and advertisements try to put this idea into practice, their efforts often fall flat. It is therefore important to investigate the appeal of specific messages on individual cultural segments.

Collage Group has sought to explain these differential outcomes, making them a core focus of our Ad Rating Survey. As part of the survey, we asked respondents to take an unambiguous stance on 13 selected social trends, in four categories:

  • Non-Traditional Family
  • Race
  • Youth
  • Activism

After analyzing the results we found several interesting takeaways:

Rather than featuring a strict divide between liberals and conservatives on all issues, multicultural values breakdown into three categories.

The largest group is Social Liberal (44% of the population), which tends to approve of trends across all four categories, followed by Social Conservative, with 29% of the population tending to disapprove of all the mentioned trends. A third group, however, responded positively to trends regarding race, youth, and activism, but negatively on non-traditional family trends.

Multicultural consumers are substantially more likely to feature Family Values than Social Conservatism.

For White panelists, Social Conservatives outnumbered Family Values consumers, but for all other categories the opposite was true.

This was especially the case for African-American panelists, whose proportion of Family Values consumers was very close to its proportion of Social Liberal consumer. Over a third of Hispanic and Asian respondents were also in the Family Values segment.

Hispanic acculturation corresponds with a shift from Family Values to Social Conservatism

Comparing unacculturated against acculturated Hispanics reveals a shift away from the Family Values segment and towards Social Conservatism, while Social Liberalism remains relatively unchanged. This trend suggests that acculturated Hispanics divide themselves on social issues in ways that are similar to Non-Hispanic Whites.

Understanding how Family Values shapes multicultural social views is essential for marketers eager to appeal to these fast growing and influential consumer segments. To learn more about how you can leverage these preferences to produce valuable brand outcomes, please complete the form below.

Culturally-Optimized Consumer Journey Mapping

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According to a recent industry survey, nearly 9 out 10 companies currently engage in some form of consumer journey mapping. However, only a handful are truly optimizing their models by activating on the behaviors (steps and triggers) of their multicultural consumers.

Furthermore, many fall short when it comes to identifying the points in the  journey where culture exerts the most influence, and where divergent steps emerge among multicultual and youth consumers.

The ‘holy grail’ of holistic Total Market consumer journey mapping lies in revealing points of divergence along the consumer journey, and activating more effectively and efficiently against them to unlock profitable growth.

We’ve seen (and conducted research for) hundreds of consumer journeys at Collage Group. A ‘best in class’ culturally-optimized journey is:

  1. Rooted on a strong foundational ‘cultural dimension’ framework to explain the why behind how we shop. Your consumer journey needs to identify and correlate the influence of shared cultural values in shopper behavior.
  2. Designed with innovative data collection and journey mapping techniques that are dynamic and omnichannel (on-line and offline). The approach can’t be static or linear. It can’t look at each touch point, source of influence, and behavior in isolation. It must look at each step of the journey by setting it in the context of cultural values, norms, and traditions. Only then will the journey story-telling be truly cohesive and human-centered.
  3. Delivered against an actionable strategic framework for activation A best-in-class consumer journey must surface emerging pathways/channels, quick-win ideas, and develop roadmaps for immediate action. Ideally, they are designed such that they can be continuously monitoredto evaluate customer experiences over time.

Why do you need a culturally-optimized consumer journey?

Understanding where you should invest your multicultural marketing efforts along the consumer journey is critical to ensuring that your dedicated and integrated approaches reach your consumers in the most impactful way.

Consider this – we know tons through our syndicated research about where multicultural consumers generally differ along the path-to-purchase from general market consumers. You may know:

  1. One-in-four coupons redeemed by Hispanics were handed to them by a friend (much higher than GM).
  2. Asian consumers tend to research products online before the shopping trip, while Hispanics research at the store closer to the point of purchase.
  3. Hispanic consumers are much more tactile in-aisle, and in some categories they are much more likely to rip open packaging to touch and feel the product.

These are great insights, but they beg big questions:

  • Which insights are most impactful for me, for my brands and my categories?
  • What is at the root of this behavior, and how should I activate against the core cause?
  • With a limited budget, what do I do to capitalize on these divergent behaviors to get the biggest bang for my buck?

Allow us to simplify your Total Market go-to-market strategy without losing impact or relevance.

Our Consumer Journey mapping will help you manage complexity, create alignment cross-functionally across departments (brand, sales, media, innovation, etc) and deliver a unified strategy that works.

If you think there’s an opportunity for quick wins with multicultural consumers by better understanding where they differ along the consumer journey:

  1. Browse through this outline to understand more of how we can help, and
  2. Fill out this form, to be contacted by an expert for more information.

At Collage Group, we’ve developed a  unique approach to understanding the customer journey that will help you get the real, actionable insights you need to influence consumer behavior. 

Fill out this form to learn more, and someone will be in touch to schedule a call with an expert. Otherwise, Collage members, LOGIN to review the latest from your membership.

Supporting our Neighbors and Friends

At Collage Group, we have the privilege of employing and partnering with people from across the globe.  The recent spate of natural disasters in the southern United States, Puerto Rico, and Mexico is particularly close to our hearts given our deep ties to those areas.

Many have asked us how they can help in the relief efforts, so below are just a few of the organizations doing good work that we support at Collage Group.

  • United for Puerto Rico, an initiative brought forth by the First lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rosselló in collaboration with the private sector, to provide aid and support to hurricane victims
  • PRxPR Funda private, non-partisan, no overhead fund to aid in the rebuilding of Puerto Rico by investing in communities with the most critical needs
  • Fondo Unido México, part of the United Way network, has created an emergency fund to help the areas affected by the earthquakes as well as the recent series of hurricanes

We will continue to monitor the situation and support organizations helping those in need.

Please complete the form below to receive additional information from Collage Group.