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WPP research into Minority Ethnic consumers reveals ‘courage gap’

The report urges brands to rethink assumptions and address unequal customer experiences.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director

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Courage is the most ‘untapped concept’ for many brands, according to the ‘Consumer Equality Equation’, a new report from WPP on Minority Ethnic consumers.

The report shines a light on the inclusion gap impacting brands today. For while challenger brands such as Fenty exude and define ‘courage’, especially for respondents from Minority Ethnic groups, many brands are falling short. 

While the marketing industry has long talked a good game on ‘bravery’ this report shines a light on the continued gap between rhetoric and reality for Minority Ethnic consumers. From unequal customer experience to product design based on outdated assumptions and stereotypes, brands are missing out on connecting with a diverse and growing group of consumers. 

The Consumer Equality Equation

The report highlights the challenge of the ‘Consumer Equality Equation’. An inequality that lies at the intersection of consumer experience (what brands/ corporations do) and the social context (the systemic and societal problems of inequality and racism).

Shelina Janmohamed, VP of Islamic Marketing at Ogilvy Consulting, and lead author of the report, explained: “We set out to ask a simple but infrequently asked question that is fundamental to future brand success: what does it mean to stand in the shoes of Minority Ethnic consumers?”

It is a complex question that the research answers comprehensively. As Janmohamed explains: “Our research has helped us create a transformative framework for our clients and their customers that addresses systemic consumer inequality and leads to business growth through holistic engagement. This relationship – ‘The Consumer Equality Equation’ – is an important and game-changing milestone in laying the groundwork for tangible change in everyone’s consumer experiences.”

‘The Consumer Equality Equation’ – is an important and game-changing milestone in laying the groundwork for tangible change in everyone’s consumer experiences.

Shelina Janmohamed, VP of Islamic Marketing at Ogilvy Consulting

A £16tr mistake: the cost of systemic consumer inequality

Minority Ethnic groups will double to almost a third of the UK adult population by 2061, while their estimated annual disposable income will rise to £575 billion, which is over double what it is today. 

This demographic shift equates to a cumulative disposable income of up to £727 billion by the end of 2023, £3.06 trillion by 2031 and £16.7 trillion by 2061. Therefore unless brands invest in ways to connect meaningfully with these consumers they are at risk of leaving huge volumes of potential revenue on the table. 

In the midst of a growingly negative narrative towards brand purpose the research underlines that consumers expect brands to step up. 82% of respondents say that brands play an important role in shaping Britain’s culture. While 80% say brands nowadays have a responsibility to reflect modern Britain. 

The research underlines that people care about racial equality: 80% of white consumers and 92% of consumers from Minority Ethic groups are concerned about racial equality. Silence is  not an option: with 72% of consumers from Minority Ethnic groups saying that brands should be in conversations about racial equality. 

Over three-quarters of all respondents, irrespective of ethnicity, believe it is important for brands to promote diversity and inclusion. For people from Minority Ethnic groups, trust is higher for brands that are more ethnically representative in their advertising (79% versus 60% for White respondents.)

 

86%
of the UK population say that ‘racism is a problem in the UK’.
82%
of respondents say that brands play an important role in shaping Britain’s culture.
£16.7tr
is the projected cumulative disposable income of people from Minority ethnic groups by 2061.

Missed or seemingly small consumer opportunities all add up. Engaging just 1% of Minority Ethnic groups now will have an immediate effect for brands which multiplies over time to bring medium and long-term commercial growth.

Karen Blackett OBE, President of WPP in the UK

The microaggressions of customer experience

The research revealed that consumers from Minority Ethnic groups tend to have a more negative in-store experience. This unequal experience also extends to a lack of relevant product ranges and a poorer level of customer service.

As one respondent shared: “I went into [a fashion outlet] with my friend and she is Black … bearing in mind we’re both like 30-year-old young professionals. The security guard, we know he was following us around the store and to the point where my friend actually said, ‘Right, I’m leaving’… She didn’t say anything to him but she was really, really mad about it.” 

These microaggressions are not just devastating for the people experiencing them, they are part of a complex web of inequality which is holding brands, businesses and society back. 

Karen Blackett OBE, President of WPP in the UK, explained: “By taking time to understand the varied and nuanced consumer experiences of people from different ethnic groups, brands have the opportunity to make a positive and lasting impact both on society and their bottom line.”

She added: “Missed or seemingly small consumer opportunities all add up. Engaging just 1% of Minority Ethnic groups now will have an immediate effect for brands which multiplies over time to bring medium and long-term commercial growth.”

 

Breaking the stereotypes surrounding luxury consumers

The report also cut a swathe through the outdated stereotypes surrounding luxury shoppers. It reveals that white consumers tend to want relatively more ‘good value’ products while consumers from Minority Ethnic Groups want more intrinsic worth and high quality products. 

The research suggests that brands need to rethink assumptions surrounding luxury shoppers. Consumers from Minority Ethnic groups, particularly those from Middle Eastern, Black and South Asian ethnicities, buy luxury products. Over 5 in 6 report buying them, compared with 4 in 6 consumers from the White ethnic group. Yet despite that purchase power, people from Middle Eastern, Black and South Asian ethnicities do not believe that luxury products are designed for them. 

There is also a growing investor group; with 28% of people aged 18 to 54 from Minority Ethnic groups investing for wealth compared to 17% of White people. However, 39% of people from Minority Ethnic groups felt that their ethnicity negatively affects their experience with financial services. (Black and Middle Eastern respondents indexed slightly higher at 42%).

A case for more diverse media strategies

The research also pointed towards the importance of ‘belonging’ in marketing and media strategies. According to the report ‘a sense of community is vital to the identity of people from Minority Ethnic groups. In line with this, the research shows a higher level of trust felt by consumers from Minority Ethnic groups towards influencers from Minority Ethnic groups. 

The report believes this trust is driven by a ‘greater sense of identity, shared experiences and relatability between those influencers and their audiences’. The research also revealed an increased trust from consumers of Minority Ethnic groups towards ethnically focused media channels where self and community identification can be found in the editorial content

 

As people look to prioritise their expenditure and change their habits, businesses need to rethink any previous assumptions about Minority Ethnic spending.

Mark Read, CEO of WPP

From awareness to action

Notably, the research is seeking not just to raise awareness of an issue but provides a comprehensive framework for brands to close the gap. 

The research is supported by the WPP Racial Equity Programme, which is part of a set of commitments announced by WPP in 2020 to help combat racial injustice and support Black and ethnically marginalised talent. 

Mark Read, CEO of WPP, explained: “We know that brands who invest come out stronger in times of economic uncertainty. As people look to prioritise their expenditure and change their habits, businesses need to rethink any previous assumptions about Minority Ethnic spending. 

He continued: “The consumer experience – good or bad – directly shapes and influences people’s daily lives, meaning business leaders play a pivotal role in helping to build a more equal and thriving society.”

The full report is available here. 

 

Related Tags

Diversity/Inclusion