BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Supermarkets will be battlegrounds for brands trying to appeal to younger generations influenced by diversity and "urban culture."
That's the opinion of Keith Clinkscales, chairman and CEO of Vanguard Media, who participated in a panel on "Emerging Demographic Groups" during this month's Food Marketing Institute Midwinter Executive Conference here.
"The supermarket industry can better seize minority opportunities to make their businesses better," he said. "Many brand battles are won and lost in the urban communities."
Vanguard Media focuses on urban lifestyle publishing with magazines including Impact!, Honey, Heart & Soul and Savoy.
Clinkscales said brands outside of the food sector are building relationships with today's more diverse consumer base. Companies in media, cosmetics and fashion are appealing to the more diverse outlooks of Generation X and the teens of the Millennial Generation, he said.
Clinkscales added that brands that attract consumers are likely to hold onto them.
"The nature of brand customers is to be brand loyal," he said. "Take share, find new markets and engender relationships with customers."
Brands that identify with urban culture will be able to leverage their message worldwide, he stressed. "Urban culture is transportable on a global basis. You see this trend all over the world."
He also urged marketers to avoid worrying that targeting consumers with new demographics will alienate the existing base of a brand. "That's not true," he said, contending that wider positioning will help brands to solidify their base.
Other speakers on the FMI panel included Dawn Hudson, president, Pepsi-Cola, North America; Margaret Regan, president and CEO, FutureWork Institute; and William Strauss, partner and co-founder, Lifecourse Associates.
Hudson said brands like Pepsi "don't want to be seen as graying and old." She stressed that today's teens look at the world differently from prior generations.
"The millennials don't segment by African-American or white or Hispanic," she said. "The millennials see a more diverse world, so you should look at variety as a potential tool."
Younger consumers also are determined to seek out wider choices in jobs and lifestyles, Hudson said. "Pepsico is supportive of multiculturalism and more flexible workplaces," she stressed.
Strauss said each new generation has a different outlook on the world and should be viewed through a different lens.
"Each generation has to solve new problems," he said. "The new generation is not just a linear extension of one that came before."
Generation X came of age during a period of major changes in the structure of families and this group was the target of criticism by older generations. "People called them stupid and unprepared," Strauss said. "But Generation X turned out to be the most productive generation of all. The kids learned to be survivalists. And they look at supermarkets differently."
Today's millennials "are the smartest young people in American history," Strauss contended. "They have a great depth of extracurricular activities. They are ambitious and optimistic. They think of society over themselves."
How can food marketers best understand the outlook of Generation X and the millennials? "They can best be understood by looking at those in your own families and circles of friends," he said. "And these trends are even more present in ethnic communities."
Regan of FutureWork Institute said marketers need to question how they look at the consumer groups that were once considered minorities.