Who we are, or what we understand as our identity, is a combination of internal and external factors – in the words of Charles Cooley, “I am who I think you think I am.” Which means that what we see on TV, in movies, across social media, and how that impacts the way others see us, shapes the way we see ourselves. That’s why stories that reflect the lived experiences of all viewers have the power to entertain, inspire, and forge deeper connections with audiences. At NBCUniversal, we’re more than just committed to multiculturalism – it’s a responsibility. It doesn’t start and stop with the talent on screen who bring to life the stories we crave, or the crew behind the camera. It also extends across the ads that air on our platform, and throughout every facet of our business.
For our partners to build trust and affinity across multicultural audiences, they need the insights and research that help inform how they can connect with diverse audiences in authentic ways.
That’s why today, with our partners at MAGNA and Identity, we are thrilled to unveil new research that builds on our 2018 study, taking a deeper dive into identity, its impact on advertising, and how as an industry and society we can continue to inform and influence our world positively, together.
Consumers Are More Than One Thing – They Have Multifaceted Cultural Identities
For many Americans, identity isn’t fixed or solely defined by ethnicity or the traditional labels ascribed to us – it’s also what we decide based on our choices. It’s formed by a mosaic of heritage and customs, shifting cultural beliefs and values—even a curiosity about other cultures. In other words, people are largely polycultural, associating with a whole host of different identities.
Respondents in our study expressed personal attachments to an average of 8 different communities. Meanwhile, a whopping 93% said they had a strong desire to connect to other cultures. So as brands consider the results of this study, they should keep in mind that more people feel connected to—or like they have a kinship with—more cultures than ever before.
Media Plays a Monumental Role as a Cultural Resource:
There are many avenues for people to seek out cultural affirmation, but our survey found that an overwhelming 82% of respondents turned to at least one type of media to connect with their personal heritage. This was especially pronounced among people of color, LGBTQ+ audiences, and young people under 35. Notably, Black and Hispanic audiences were the heaviest users of media and leaned the most on visual forms of media to connect to their heritage.
Our study also revealed that media drives and satisfies global curiosity in other cultures. If a television show piques your interest about a specific cultural topic, chances are you’ll seek out more content—whether through related programming, articles, online videos, or music.
Shining a light on different cultures helps affirm people’s own polycultural identities, inspires them to learn about the world, and keeps them coming back for more.
Brands Are an Important Connector in Creating Relationships:
Even today, many brands might still wonder if consumers actually want them to join in on the conversation. The answer is a resounding yes as well as an expectation. And the good news is that brands have a clear path for growth in this area:
- 39% of our respondents said brands were doing a good job of helping connect them to their culture, with Asian audiences citing the most room for improvement, especially regarding identity connection.
- 80% said companies could improve representation in ads and brand communications by ensuring they avoid stereotypes, portray authentic images, and use diverse actors and actresses.
- When asked why a video is culturally relevant, a common thread across the top five reasons was addressing stereotypes.
- 81% of respondents said they’re more open to both seeing ads and brand messages when they succeed in connecting them to different facets they identify with and are focused on diverse, inclusive authenticity.
Brands have reached a critical inflection point. By authentically representing diverse communities, brands can make connections with members of specific cultures, and globally curious consumers everywhere. But to do so, brands must pay special attention to the communities they’ve overlooked in the past, and take action to tell honest, genuine stories.
And the good news is, brands now officially have the permission — and the expectation — to be an active
participant, ally and champion for multicultural audiences. Identities will continue to evolve and shift at the same time as America grows ever more diverse. If brands continue to celebrate and invest in understanding polycultural consumers, they can elevate underrepresented populations, increase cultural appreciation among Americans, and make the world a more welcoming and tolerant place.
With all our audiences in mind, here at NBCUniversal, we are committed to helping our marketing partners bring these critical conversations to life.