The Power of Identity: Laura Semple, Conill

par India Fizer , AdForum

Marketing Services
El Segundo, Etats-Unis
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Laura Semple
SVP | Director of Strategy Conill

The 2020 Census provided new groundbreaking data about multicultural identity, following improvements and changes to the Census which enabled a greater capacity of detail to capture the complexity of American demographics. We sat down with Laura Semple, SVP and Director of Strategic Planning at Conill to learn more about Conill's findings in "2020 Census: The United States' Rapidly Changing Identity."


Improvements and changes to the 2020 Census enabled a greater capacity of detail to capture the complexity of American demographics. What were some of the most significant or surprising growth trends that popped up?

There are two major trends that were revealed with the initial data provided by the Census.

1. Population growth coming only from minority groups

2. Population identifying themselves as multiracial

For the first time in the history of the Census, all population growth in the U.S. has been driven by minorities. The increase in the ‘Two or More Races’ population was considerable, up 276%, while the White alone population declined by 8.6%.

There has been a dramatic drop (nearly 53%) in Hispanics who reported being only White – from 26.7 million in 2010 to 12.6 million in 2020. Meanwhile, Hispanics identifying as more than one race grew by 17 million, totaling 20.3 million Hispanics.

According to the Pew Research Center, among newlywed Hispanic people who were born in the U.S., about 39% married someone who is not Hispanic.


How can brands and agencies use this data to better serve their regional markets/audience? 

We’re eagerly waiting for the Census full report to assess the impact that the findings will have at the regional level and the opportunities it will uncover in terms of audiences. So far, there are two areas of further exploration given the results - two or more races within the Hispanic market. The conversation can no longer be just about ethnicity. We need to dial up identity based on the confluence of race and ethnicity.


What effect, if any, did the pandemic have on these growth trends?

An awakening to the power of identity, an increasing sense of pride and the desire to be more outspoken, play a more activist role and pave the way for future generations to live in a kinder society. Younger generations aren’t quiet as their parents were. They are taking a leading role in their lives and are demanding for others to respect them.


Why are the fastest growing groups migrating across the U.S. and how is this affecting regional advertising?

The south has experienced an increase in population coming primarily from the west and northeast coasts. Minority groups are looking for places to live where they can get a higher quality of life – more affordable housing, more affordable gas prices, better weather, better quality education and simply more opportunities overall. Many are following the jobs, as companies are moving to states that provide favorable tax incentives.

According the latest Census, Texas had the largest numeric growth in housing units. Consistent with recent African American/Black migration patterns towards southern states, the south has experienced growth within this population cohort. Although there was a marked drop in Blacks living in the south over the past century, in recent decades, they are slowly growing in population there. Texas, Georgia and Florida have seen the largest increases.


The whitepaper reports that the way minority groups view racial identity is shifting by generation, thus resulting in more complex demographics. How can advertising help shape the way people perceive cultural identity?

Advertising should aim at mirroring what’s happening in culture and unearthing stories that are a reflection of what people are experiencing in the real world, including people’s hopes and dreams. The value equation is changing. People are expecting more than the quality of goods for an attractive price. Younger generations want companies to contribute in helping them empower their communities and brands are expected to lend their voice on social issues that require attention. 

It’s no longer enough to tell the stories of broader ethnic/racial groups. Younger generations expect the stories of sub-groups to be told, for example, afro-Latinos and indigenous people, among others.


The 2020 Census provided new groundbreaking data about multicultural identity. How have the questions changed to give us this insight and what can be done to make these questions even better for the next census? 

Open ended questions have been added to further explore the make-up of their identity. For example, lines were added under the boxes for black and white to allow respondents to describe their backgrounds with more nuance. The Census Bureau’s coding capacity improved too, enabling it to capture far more detail in people’s written answers than before. 

This has helped brands and their agencies to dive deeper to uncover the richness within groups, by prioritizing the stories of people who hadn’t been properly addressed/given a voice in communications.

“The improvements and changes enabled a more thorough and accurate depiction of how people self-identify, yielding a more accurate portrait of how people report their Hispanic origin and race within the context of a two-question format (race and ethnicity). These changes reveal that the U.S. population is much more multiracial and more diverse than what we measured in the past.” - Census