Esi Eggleston Bracey

There is no majority consumer base in the U.S. anymore.

Esi Eggleston Bracey, executive vice president and chief operating officer, personal care in North America for Unilever, spoke to the country’s changing consumer demographic in which 40 percent of consumers are multicultural, as are one in every two babies born. 

When Bracey returned to the U.S. after eight years working for Procter & Gamble in Geneva, she was struck by the increase in diversity she saw on the streets of New York. “All of the predictions and projections had actually happened,” she said.

This is no surprise to the beauty industry — everyone has seen the statistics and the changing Census data.

Aside from hard numbers proving that consumers in the U.S. are increasingly multicultural, the inclusive mind-set of Millennials and Generation Z “reflect this in such a profound way,” said Bracey. “We are all mixing, borrowing and mainstreaming cultural trends, and they’re shaping this new America at large.”

She ticked off statistics — 73 percent of white consumers in the U.S. and 67 percent of Hispanic consumers believe African-American culture influences the larger American culture. Case in point: the blockbuster success of Marvel’s “Black Panther” film.

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From this, an opportunity is emerging to market to multicultural consumers in a more effective way, said Bracey.

She highlighted a growing importance for beauty and personal-care companies to market to multicultural consumers directly and authentically by understanding “the values, trends and unmet needs — we don’t want them to feel marginalized in any way.” Said Bracey: “We really need to shift the conversation from multicultural marketing to creating value in a multicultural America.”

For instance, a recent Dove Men+Care campaign highlighted influential American men and athletes, focusing on African-American men. The campaign centered on the idea of masculinity, care and sensitivity in African-American culture. Bracey said the campaign grew from a statistic that 72 percent of multicultural consumers prefer when brands speak specifically and directly to their ethnic group.

Bracey encouraged companies to speak directly to specific consumers.

She listed SheaMoisture — owned by Sundial Brands, which Unilever acquired last year — as a key example. “SheaMoisture’s founder Rich Dennis would stand on the streets of Harlem personally talking and listening to women about their hair needs, their different beauty needs, actually what they wanted from their relationships and their overall lives,” said Bracey. “They’re very active personally across social media, and there’s a commitment across the 1.5 million followers to respond to everyone in the community.”

Bracey noted an incident when a consumer commented on the use of rosemary as an ingredient on a post about a new product launch in the Jamaican Black Castor Oil line, one of SheaMoisture’s best-selling franchises. The consumer noted she was avoiding rosemary because she was pregnant, and the product was immediately pulled from the lineup to be reformulated, risking shipping to stores on time.

She also noted Sundial Brands as an example of creating value. The company’s community commerce collections reinvest 10 percent of sales in communities across Sundial’s global supply chain. “The core problem is most companies are extracting value without crediting back to these communities,” said Bracey.

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