The PolychromeTM World
10 - 29
Polychromes and Marketing Communications 30 - 37
This booklet is your guide to navigating the exciting and interesting cultural lifestyle of a dynamic group of people, people and lifestyles that are shaping our world today. You’ve probably seen stories and data that the United States is well on its way to becoming a ‘minority majority’ nation, where Caucasian-Americans no longer form a majority and no one race or ethnicity is completely dominant. There’s a lot of debate and discussion of multiculturalism, but the academic, political and social aspects of this very real phenomenon get much more attention to the things that affect brands: the creativity, the popular culture, the fun and the cool parts of this cultural explosion. Something we call Polychrome™.
Polychrome isn’t just multi, but many. It’s every, omni and all of the above. It’s not sterile, dry textbook culture, but colorful, spontaneous, real-life creativity. It’s Childish Gambino speaking the truth. It’s Miguel redefining swagger. It’s electro-cumbia. It’s the food fusions that had never been fused. It’s Santlov making art fun. Polychrome is the way the world is going, and the way our business is going. And everyone gets to play.
We developed this booklet as a simple, easy-to-follow introduction to Polychromes, an explanation on how they interact with brands, and a practical guide to making marketing decisions that are relevant and inspiring to them. It is not meant to be a box or barrier to your own ingenuity. Thereâ€™s no better time to be talking to Polychromes than now.
Polychrome is not a demographic, but an attitude. You can be 40-something “whitebread” and still passionate about creativity and sociability across a patchwork of cultures and vibes. Or you can be a 20-something ‘Cablinasian’ (Tiger Woods’ multiracial definition of his Caucasian-African-American-IndianAsian ethnicity) and not live the Polychrome attitude. It’s first and foremost a state of mind. That said, there is a demographic component, and we’ll get into that in more detail. But as we go through the “stats” on Polychromes, let’s recognize that it’s less about skin color and more about this mindset.
Multicultural, single, urban-dwelling men 25-40
Polychrome can go beyond this to include women, people who are married or partnered, and a mix of urban, suburban, and beyond.
African-American, Bicultural Latino and Asian, Urban Caucasian
Each of these segments brings something interesting to the table, and while they were culturally further apart in the last century, they are now coming together at an accelerating rate.
2G Asian Urban White Latino
The polychrome universe is a broad intersection of these subgroups. African Americans, bicultural Latinos, Asians and urban Caucasians are all part of Polychrome, but it’s the people and things that live in the narrower intersection of these worlds that are the most Polychrome, whether they’re mass-market like Lana Del Rey or cult like Sleigh Bells. Some people and things in each cultural group don’t or won’t cross over, and might be excluded from Polychrome.
Polychrome culture, being a core component of young American pop culture, currently anchors itself in African-American culture first, thanks to the pervasive influence of Hip-Hop, and should continue to do so in the next few years. However, Latino cultural cues are very much on the rise with this younger group, compared with the total population and mainstream culture. Shakira, Juanes, America Ferrera, and Rodrigo Santoro have admirers in both languages. Where Urban White culture intersects with Polychrome is through those who have a cultural curiosity and seek out environments regardless of origin, from R&B to Merengue.
Younger Asian guys are more assimilated and more involved across the Polychrome cultural scene than their fathers. And everyone seems to be liking Wuxia (martial arts) films lately. It’s a mixed up world, and that’s a good thing.
Mapei – Born in Rhode Island and raised in Stockholm, her music defies easy categorization with echoes of hip-hop, club music, electro, punk, pop, folk, r&b and rock. She creates music that is built from her unique life experience and world travels.
Major metro coverage (minority-majority markets) By 2042 minorities will outnumber Caucasians. This is already (or nearly) true in many major U.S. cities: Miami (67%), L.A. (59%), New York (57%), San Antonio (56%), San Francisco (55%), Houston (50%), Chicago (43%), DC (42%). Each of these minoritymajority Polychrome mixes is a little different from market-to-market:
The Caucasian groups in the Northeast and Midwest are still a polyglot mix of immigrants from the last two centuries: Arabs in Detroit, Poles and Slavs in Chicago, Italians, Irish, and Portuguese in New England. This in addition to large influxes of African-American and Hispanic populations from the South, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Central America. In Miami, it’s Cuban, Haitian, African-American, the rest of Latin America, Europeans, NYC migrants, and native Floridians. In San Francisco, it’s Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, African-American, Hippie counterculture, and software geeks. But you don’t always have to go ‘major’ metro to find Polychrome influence at play: Hmong and Somalian subcultures in Milwaukee and Minneapolis; large Brazilian communities in New England and New Jersey. Everyone is everywhere now.
In his book The Rise of the Creative Class, anthropologist Richard Florida proposed that the American cities that were thriving the most in the new Millennium were the ones that embraced a diversity of talent in professions that required some form of thinking. â€˜Creativityâ€™ no longer means drawing and painting any more than it might mean remixing and MCing, or coding and diagnosing. Young adults of all lifestyles and professions seek creativity in both their work and their play. If youâ€™re a lawyer, a banker, a salesman, a DJ, a promoter, a retail manager, a programmer, or a waiter, you use creativity in your job, and seek creativity in your social life.
Ask the Polychrome generation to describe what group or tribe they hang with, and you’ll likely get multiple choice answers. The ‘slash career’ has moved well beyond model/actress/waitress and into opposites and variations that started as necessity - the need to make ends meet - and wound up a way for young people to try out different identities and futures: lawyer by day/DJ by night, salesman during the week/promoter on the weekend. Similarly, no one isolates themselves in just one subculture anymore. Polychromes are social chameleons, able to quickly and spontaneously shift from identity to identity, scene to scene, with complete fluidity. The suit may turn into the tracksuit. The briefcase may turn into a turntable. You might be a househead one day, a b-boy another, hang with the jocks, the goths, the indie set and the glam crowd. Whether you like to throw house parties for your neighbors or you’re a connoisseur of the local club scene, there’s a creativity and versatility to pursuing fun that’s as ‘poly’ as the Polychromes themselves.
Open-minded and culturally curious - from ‘my world’ to the whole world. New kinds of inclusive and exclusive. As we pointed out in the introduction, Polychrome is a mindset and an attitude even more than an ethnicity or neighborhood. What kind of mindset are we talking about? One that’s open, curious, willing to try new things, and enjoying the different. The terms ‘cosmopolitan’ and ‘citizen of the world’ get a bad rap because they conjure up images of some kind of jet set international lifestyle, but they can apply to culture as well. In music, it’s Emeli Sandé and Kendrick Lamar. Daft Punk and Pharrell. Fall Out Boy and 2 Chainz. Rihanna and Mikky Ekko. Or putting the whole world into a new definition of ‘world music,’ like Mapei or Major Lazer. You no longer have to get on a plane to experience the world when you have an open mind, an internet connection, and 20 or more nationalities within a few mile radius, which is now the case in any of the largest US markets. Polychromes are mixing up love life, night life, Facebook friends and work friends, with less regard for race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background. They’re more likely to interracially date than previous generations, and have re-elected the first President that looks like them.
The Polychrome mindset messes with the traditional marketing interpretations of exclusive and inclusive. Exclusive, once the hallmark of social class, hierarchical luxury, refinement and rarity of products, now carries an element of limited access, being in the know, having a unique point-of-view, and rarity of experience. Inclusive, which was once populist in a least-common-denominator way, now opens things up to all comers and all lifestyles. As long as you ‘get it’ (the exclusive part), you’re in (the inclusive part). The coolest place in town may now be the one that doesn’t have the long line outside the door, but is found through word-of-mouth and street smarts. Let’s not get too carried away. Bottle service is still an exclusive way to socialize, but it’s inclusive to any group of friends ready to pony up the cash, sit back, and enjoy the show. For example, the US spirits category is globally unique in its ever-rising hierarchy of premiumness. As soon as superpremium supplants premium, along comes ultrapremium. But there is no longer a social barrier as long as you have the means, the desire, and the confidence to play.
Lifestyle and Pop Culture 28
Street Life, Music, Entertainment, Fashion, Celebrity, the Arts, Sports Fusions, Genre-blending, and Collaborations Polychromes are consummate samplers – sampling, borrowing, and remixing influences from a variety of sources. Polychrome pop culture is all about recombinant creativity — the ability to make 1 plus 1 equal three, to find connections where others find differences. And with this recombination comes a bit of alchemy — the process sparks a point of view, a new meaning, and suddenly, something is there that wasn’t before.
Azealia Banks – American rapper/singer/songwriter who samples from and collaborates with a variety of artists in her music including Lazy Jay, Toko Yasuda, Theophilus London and Kevin Hussein.
There are the usual communications cues that everyone knows in talking with media-savvy, time-challenged, culturally-sensitive young people: no patronizing, no stereotyping, showing respect, don’t hold a mirror up to them, inspiring and empowering. These are the cost-of-entry. As soon as the Polychrome consumer gets a whiff that you’re trying to target a Polychrome consumer – i.e., the Benetton campaign, McDonald’s using ‘I’d hit that’ in reference to a Double Cheeseburger – you might as well not have bothered.
Often, the brands that get Polychrome right are the ones that consciously avoid drawing attention to race and ethnicity and present the brand consistently, but surround it with a variety of cultural and creative cues. Target, Apple, VW, Heineken, Absolut, and Ikea were all pioneers in using African-American, Latino, Asian, and Urban Caucasian subcultures as part of a unified brand presence, without pandering. But it can be challenging to stay in the Polychrome zone. Tommy Hilfiger, MAC, and Polo did it well 15 years ago, but today it’s more likely Apple, Oak and Levi’s that connect with Polychrome audiences.
For luxury brands, it’s often a missed opportunity to exit the stereotypes of who and what might be considered to be affluent, exclusive, and attracted to premium brands. The key is to keep it contemporary, natural, and let the story, characters, and brand come forward, whether it’s an off-premise promotion or a viral ad campaign. Who we portray should be slightly aspirational to our audience, but still approachable and attainable to their world – a better party, but one that they could show up at and then make it more interesting.
One of the more important filters we can use to define and evaluate brands’ marketing and promotions is CROSSOVERABILITY. Polychrome is all about surfing across cultures, whether based on who you are, what you do, what you’re interested in, or who’s interested in you.
For a celebrity, piece of content or brand to even be considered relevant for Polychromes they have to have a general cultural curiosity, desire to explore and experience, and a cultural cosmopolitanness.
Crossover is a factor but it may not be the only one. Just as important as it is to define what Polychrome is, it is also important to define what it isnâ€™t when it comes to our customers and our brand:
An attitude Unexpected Interesting Multiethnic Limited Hip-Hop + Upmarket Sexy Humorous Behind Closed Doors Belongs in Your World Masculine Intriguing Attainable Intelligent Aspirational Instructive Positive Energetic Independent
A color Insider Eccentric Benetton Elitist Only Hip Hop Snobby Sexist Ridiculous Behind Velvet Ropes A Mirror on Your World Misogynist Incomprehensible Implausible Intellectual Pretentious Condescending Corny Out of Control Indie There’s a kind of ‘in the zone’ space for tonality we can be so that we’re never too extreme in one regard or another. Crossoverability and being close to what it is, while avoiding what it isn’t, are the first two filters. The third is just your judgment. If you think it’s too narrow, not premium enough, too mass or played out, or limited in appeal, it may not be right for us.
POLYCHROME TM, la comunidad, LLC.
Published on Nov 5, 2013