Multicultural diversity is having an out-sized impact on the consumer habits of a growing number of millennials, an important distinction for brands and marketers to realize as the largest generation in U.S. history moves into its prime spending years, according to one marketing expert.

"How much more diverse do you get before a minority is actually a majority," Tina Wells, founder and CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, said Wednesday at a workshop about successful strategies for targeting millennials, held in conjunction with the National Black MBA Association's annual conference.

The conference, which was last held in New Orleans in 2009, is expected to draw nearly 8,000 attendees through Saturday.

This year, the event is expected to generate an estimated $9.4 million in economic impact for the city, according to the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Among the age group 18 to 34, about 40 percent identify as Hispanic, black or Asian American, a fact that's influencing shopping patterns and brand loyalties, according to a recent Nielsen survey.

That's forced many brands to rethink their tactics in order to connect with "a generation that's always been at the forefront of consumption and technology," Wells said.

Having more advertising campaigns to reflect that growing appreciation for multicultural identity will be key to reaching millennials and developing their loyalty, she said.

"It's important to understand that multicultural millennials are doing everything that white millennials are doing," she said. "It's just somehow not relaying to the rooms of the people that create branding and advertising.

"We are all experiencing this really fascinating trend of not necessarily living within a checked box within the demographic," she said.

And in some cases, if millennial consumers aren't satisfied with the products or services being offered, she said, they're not just sitting on their hands either.

"The expectation that they're going to be represented in brands and products is so huge, but the opportunity and know-how of creating their own is also just as huge," she said. "That's the real tension point I see: If it's not there, do I need to create it?"

The nonprofit National Black MBA Association is a member-based group that focuses on improving educational and career opportunities for black professionals. It has nearly 10,000 members within 45 professional chapters across the U.S.

The conference includes a career expo at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, which will host recruiters from hundreds of Fortune 1000 companies as well as career advisers who can offer job coaching and other professional services.

For professionals with graduate degrees, the conference is designed to bridge connections to recruiters from major companies as well as help them develop and build leadership and entrepreneurship skills.

More than 50 business executives, innovators and celebrity speakers are slated to participate at the conference, including NFL Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis and retired NBA player Walter Bond.

“Although the job market is improving, some professionals with graduate-level degrees still have difficulty finding quality jobs,” said Jesse Tyson, the association's president and CEO.

Late registration for the career expo for nonmembers is $480. For the full conference, late registration for a nonmember is $1,075.


Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.