Multicultural Marketing

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n this day and age, no one market is homogenous. There are no longer static, monolithic, or one-size-fits-all ways to communicate. As you consider a more global strategy, think about the different cultural values in various markets. Individualistic cultures, like the United States, Argentina, Italy, and Turkey, value personal independence.  Collectivistic cultures, such as China, Israel, Russia, and Spain, value group obligations and membership. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that in the next twenty to thirty years, more than half of all Americans will identify as a minority or as multicultural. Already, one in five Canadians is ethnically diverse.

Formerly, brands considered the mainstream general market (GM) and then disparate approaches to the multicultural market (MCM) with highly segmented data and campaigns. Now with the growth of multicultural populations and diversity awareness, there is the total market (TM) strategy which integrates both GM and MCM tactics. TM combines diversity of backgrounds. Campaigns must go beyond individual demographic groups and address all segments with respect, joining together many points of view. This creates authentic narratives, giving voice to all identities, making culturally aware space within marketing strategies.

Consider multilingual approaches

One example is Chinese.  Arguably, the phenomenon of Chinese becoming an international global language is partially due to the sheer size of the Chinese demographic.  The Chinese also hold a dominant portion of the global market share so anyone involved in international business would benefit significantly from learning Chinese.  Another language taking precedence on the global stage is Spanish.  There are vital Spanish-speaking language groups in North America, South/Central America, and Europe. Spanish is the third most commonly used language on the Internet after English and Mandarin. Logically, Chinese, Spanish, and English are predisposed to becoming the international languages of commerce.

Successful strategies will integrate difference identities

Language is a particularly important beacon for cultural identity. Tone, accent, and dialect all impact how a message is received by consumers. One excellent example is Coca-Cola’s “America the Beautiful” ad sung in multiple languages during the 2014 Super Bowl. McKinsey & Company recommends building empathy by understanding, “their diverse attitudes, shopping occasions, and need states.”

Make audiences feel empowered and appreciated

With audience’s values and behaviors, brands can deeply connect with the consumer’s personal story. There are complex, nuanced relationships between consumers’ buying habits and their identities. Using brand ambassadors that look like and speak like your audience will build inclusive, cohesive, and consistent messaging. Total market approaches have the potential to build brand loyalty, but can drive consumers away if handled carelessly.

Context is key

As essential as content is to a TM approach, context is what reigns king. There are numerous examples of brand strategies “lost in translation” or co-opted by other movements. Clairol’s Mist Stick failed in Germany because “mist” is slang for “manure” in German. Kendall Jenner’s controversial Pepsi ad did not resonate with progressive social movements and a younger demographic as planned. Countless Twitter campaigns that were overly responsive to the “Trending” sidebar. TM strategies also include explicit or hard-sell campaigns where appropriate versus experiential, implicit messages.

Cultural marketing engages consumers in current cultural conversations to help expand a brand’s narrative. Going beyond rote expressions of “Happy Hanukkah” or referencing the Chinese New Year will avoid the feeling of tokenism or stereotyping and expand a brand’s reach beyond buying and selling. Forbes notes that, “Business, especially marketing, takes contemporary culture for granted. It gets dismissed simply as the thing everyone’s talking about around the watercooler, but it’s bigger than what’s trendy today. Culture is the one thing that enables marketers to create greater engagement, relevance and grow their business.” With careful research, evaluation, and sensitivity, marketing as an industry can move towards more inclusivity. After all, there is no brand, without consumers willing to purchase it.

Photo by Mauro Mora | Unsplash

Campaigns must go beyond individual demographic groups and address all segments with respect, joining together many points of view. This creates authentic narratives, giving voice to all identities, making culturally aware space within marketing strategies.