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Spoiler alert: Yes. As the cultural composition of the United States continues to diversify and change, the marketing strategies employed by savvy businesses must also change. While there are many dangers to marketing incorrectly to a multicultural audience, over time we have identified three top tips to help you make your multicultural marketing strategy effective.
To start, let’s get a clearer idea of what multicultural marketing really means. Multicultural marketing moves away from the standard marketing technique that appeals primarily to the general audience and instead targets consumers in particular demographic groups. Multicultural marketing uses the language, traditions and other concepts associated with the culture to communicate and influence that audience. Companies that effectively implement multicultural marketing identify and understand cultural differences.
The most effective organizations commit efforts to identifying the groups that they seek to influence and from whom they want to see increased business. This should be based on a careful analysis of the organization’s analytics. Once the culture is identified, businesses can take steps to tailor their marketing campaigns to these specific groups.
About 62 percent of adult Hispanics in the United States speak English or are bilingual. To respond to this greater need to appeal to the Hispanic market, Font & Vaamonde Advertising pioneered a multicultural marketing campaign. It encouraged consumer product companies to include commercials and print advertisements that were targeted for the Hispanic market. They supplemented their general audience campaigns with tailored messages.
It is important for businesses to get specific with their efforts. There is not a typical multicultural consumer. Companies must take care to research the differences in consumers’ perceptions, motives and beliefs so that they learn how their product or service fits into the culture.
Dr. Felipe Korzenny is the founder of the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication and consults with major corporations in the United States on their multicultural marketing strategies. He provides insights into other cultures that assist companies to help products be successful within the United States and internationally. He has published over 100 research studies that discuss communication and culture, emphasizing the importance of businesses connecting with consumers of other cultures.
Multicultural marketing does not mean to simply use professional translation services to change content from English to Spanish, Arabic or other languages. Instead, it requires the use of localization services and cultural consulting so that businesses have a better idea about what types of concepts and messages will appeal to their target audience.
When adopting multicultural marketing, it is important to tread lightly and proceed with caution. Today’s market is very sensitive to any sign of lack of respect, racism or other negative feelings. Large corporations have sometimes missed the mark, resulting in public backlash and ridicule. For example, the German skincare brand Nivea was considered discriminatory and racially insensitive after releasing its “white is purity” campaign. Dunkin’ Donuts officials apologized after an ad in Thailand featured a model in blackface. These marketing campaigns did not seem to incorporate concerns that the culture may have about such messaging.
Sexual assault and harassment stories have recently dominated the media. Some companies have failed to consider the cultural implications when releasing advertisements that make light of these types of claims. Bloomingdale’s 2015 Christmas catalog showed a man gazing at an attractive woman over a caption that read “spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.” The ad was interpreted by some as advocating date rape. Mistakes such as these can cost companies millions of dollars in wasted marketing and advertising efforts as well as significant decreases in sales in the short, and in some cases, the long-term as well.
It is critical to use knowledgeable cultural consulting services to avoid making these insensitive mistakes, but more importantly, to strengthen corporate brand image within specific communities. Multicultural marketing can allow businesses to target previously untapped cultural groups that have buying power in the billions. A professional company can assess marketing campaigns for their viability and likelihood to appeal to the targeted groups before launching a campaign.