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Study: Multicultural Millennials Swept Up in 'Obama Effect'

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Millennials—those consumers born between 1980 and 2000—have always been known to be more concerned about world issues than previous generations, but a new study posits that multicultural members of this generation over-index on that score.

According to a study to be released this month by Images USA, in collaboration with The Futures Company, 81 percent of the so-called Generation Y feel the gravity of world events is causing them to get involved. But according to Ricki Fairley-Brown, CMO of Images, African-American and Hispanic Gen Yers are more motivated than Caucasians of the same age. "Baby boomers had sort of tried to redefine traditional values," she said. "Millennials know they have to. They're inheriting a planet in distress."

Fairley-Brown and Juan Quevedo, director of marketing research and strategic insight for Images, attributed the "Obama effect" to African-American and Hispanic consumers in that age group. However, Images was basing its study on a poll of 2,500 consumers last summer. Neither Fairley-Brown nor Quevedo could comment on whether challenges to Obama's presidency, like the stalled healthcare initiative, may have tempered that enthusiasm. "It's a coming together of civil rights, the huge Hispanic immigration of recent years, even LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender]," Fairley-Brown said. "They're significantly more engaged and involved. They believe they can." About 40 to 45 percent of this age group will be either Hispanic or African American, Fairley-Brown added.

For marketers, Quevedo suggested approaching Gen Y multicultural consumers much differently than even Gen Xers. "Marketers will have to change how they approach their consumer base from cereal to shoes to clothing," he said. "Millennial moms will be bigger in numbers and how you talk to them will be tainted by this value system that differs."

Another finding of the study is that African-American Gen Yers are significantly more entrepreneurial than Hispanics or whites. Quevedo suggested that financial institutions, as well as office supply stores like OfficeMax and Office Depot, should take note of that fact and tailor their marketing programs accordingly.