You may believe your marketing strategy is inclusive because you’re appealing to a variety of demographic groups, and you’ve used demographic-based data to back your findings to apply, for example, to your next campaign. Afro-Latinos, however, and other consumers from multi-racial backgrounds are often denied the option to accurately portray their identity in studies. 24% of Afro-Latinos say they report their race as Hispanic, while 18% report their race as Black, and only 9% report as a mix of two or more races. Surprisingly, 39% of Afro-Latinos say they report their race as white (source). By acknowledging the diverse lived experiences and cultural influences that can span across ethnic groups that are often generalized, you’ll be able to break out of a one-size-fits-all approach to diversity in your marketing and achieve an inclusive, intersectional, and effective marketing strategy.
To start, demographic groups that live at the intersection of other identities aren’t well represented in consumer data due to the limitations of demographics-based surveys that adhere to the standard racial categories set forward by the US Census Bureau Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which list only “White, Black or African American, American-Indian or Alaska Native, and Pacific Islander” as options for racial self-identification.
25% of Latinos in the U.S. identify as Afro-Latinx, while two-thirds of Latinos “say their Hispanic background is a part of their racial background.” This further invalidates current self-identification options on studies, as the US Census Bureau defines “Hispanic/Latino” as an ethnic background rather than a race, while Latinos tend not to distinguish between the categories of ethnicity and race and don’t see their identity represented within any of the current OMB categories.
The reason why members of the Afro-Latinx community, who “are characterized by their diverse views of racial identity, reflecting the complex and varied nature of race and identity among Latinos,” give such a wide variety of responses is because they don’t feel like any standard option for racial self-identification truly represents their lived experience. Afro-Latinos identify with a combination of Latino and African ancestral backgrounds, so they can be described as multicultural, multi-racial, or of mixed heritage. According to a study on how multiracial women identify with a variety of formats of the question “What is your race?,” those “of mixed heritage prefer a racial identification question that provides them, at a minimum, with the opportunity to acknowledge their multi-cultural background,” as well as expressing “the desire to identify each of the specific groups that constitute their racial/ethnic background.” 68.9% of respondents said that forms that included both “other- please specify” and “multiracial” as options for racial identification were “most likely to give an accurate picture of how respondents would classify themselves.”
To surpass the limitations of self-identification, we must work towards two goals. First, we must ensure consumers feel confident about their responses to self-identification questions by encouraging them to explain their identities in their own words. Then, we must realize that demographic data is fallible, and our assumptions on how consumers purchase based on their self-reported identities can lead us to overlook large groups of people. Afro-Latinx consumers need to feel like researchers value how they self-identify in their own eyes if we want to find out who our consumers truly are. Using demographics in your marketing strategy isn’t about how we see our consumers, but how your consumers see themselves and your role in their lives.