4 Truths and One Lie About Multicultural Marketing According to Mel Rodriguez & Co, Starcom, Walton Isaacson…

What: We talked to Melissa Rodriguez, Dana Bonkowski, Albert Thompson, and Teylez Perez about the future of brands in an increasingly multicultural world. 
Why it matters: Reports estimate that by 2065 Hispanics will account for one-quarter of U.S. population. Brands should be aware of this opportunity and find appropriate communication strategies.

As multicultural consumers increase in quantity and we get a step closer to them being a majority, doing multicultural marketing becomes more and more necessary. According to Liz Castells-Heard, CEO of Castells & Asociados, even though multiculturals are nearly 40% of U.S. consumers and spend US $1.7 trillion, they get under 18% of all ad dollars. "Most of the Fortune 500 are still reticent, late in the game or not doing it right," she writes. "It is not just about a few adjunct in-language TV spots, influencers, soccer, events or social. It's about a top-down, thoughtful, holistic and organization-wide approach."

But what are the right steps and elements a brand needs in order to "do it right"? As Dana Bonkowski, SVP, Multicultural Lead at Starcom says, "Whether or not you intend to officially embark on a multicultural marketing initiative, the reality is multicultural consumers are already part of your brand’s story," and so companies really should start taking these consumers into account if they wish to stay relevant in the future. 

Every person is unique, but you can't target everyone

Melissa Rodríguez

The first step, according to Melissa Rodriguez, CEO & Founder of Mel Rodriguez & Co, is understanding the multi-cultural audience you are targeting: "Are they targeting an accultured or non-accultured audience? Are they targeting a U.S. born or non-U.S. born audience?" As she explains, things like where and how a person was raised play a huge role in their interests, as well as in what they connect with at an emotional level: "Know exactly who you're targeting (even if it is a large population), integrate emotional connectors into your brand messaging to show them you understand and even relate to them, and watch how you start to connect more and more with a very different but widely important audience."

Do you make sense to spend my heart and money on?

Albert Thompson

In order for this to work, not only do you need to know who you're targeting, but you also need to make sure the connection is real. In the words of Albert Thompson, Digital Strategist at Walton Isaacson, "Consumers are very smart, they can look at a brand and they can tell immediately if it’s for them or not. They may not know if it’s exactly the best for them, but they do know when it is not for them. You have to know you’re being scrutinized or evaluated as to whether you make sense to that person… specifically, they would ask themselves, 'Do you make sense to spend my heart and money against?"


Brands need to understand themselves first

Dana Bonkowski

"The first step is to acknowledge that your brand’s success or shortcomings might in fact be driven by audiences you don’t fully understand," says Dana Bonkowski, SVP, Multicultural Lead at Starcom. "Because of that, multicultural understanding has to be one of your top priorities." However, you can't begin to understand an audience if you don't understand yourself first. In the words of Walton Isaacson's Albert Thompson, "You shouldn’t be pursuing an audience whom your values don’t make sense for or don’t really speak to. That’s what brands need to be honest about and say 'Hey, what we make, what we stand for, that’s not the consumer we’re trying to speak to'".

Successful campaigns are not the ones that offer a product or a price; you need to tell a story, to make sure the consumer knows that this product will add something to their lives.

Teylez Perez

For Teylez Perez, SVP of Marketing at Lionsgate's PantaYA, when a brand's values coincide with the consumer' the opportunity arrives organically: "The biggest opportunity for a brand arrives when its corporate values coincide with the consumer’s and the market’s values. In this way, they get aligned in a natural and organic way. Today, successful campaigns are not the ones that offer a product or a price,  you need to tell a story, to make sure the consumer knows that this product will add something to their lives."

"Every brand is not for everyone. As a brand, you need to know your audience and the market that connects the most with the experience you offer or the service you sell," recommends Melissa Rodriguez. "In a nutshell, identify the characteristics of your brand and let the data tell you what audience to focus on, not just who you think it should be."

Data is your friend, it will help every step of the way

As with any other marketing campaign, research is crucial, but not every company has a sophisticated data team, and some lack the ability to find out where they need to fill in gaps. "For organizations that struggle with data, my first recommendation is always to start with your existing customers," says Melissa Rodriguez. "Come up with intriguing and incentivized ways to collect information and feedback from your multi-cultural community. Use the information collected from this to build out some campaigns to help you cast a wider net."

Teylez Perez explains that executives need to have a corporate vision that makes them understand how important data is, but they cannot wait forever to launch a campaign: "You need a balance; you shouldn't be too strict as to whether you have all the necessary research to do a successful campaign, you could be paralyzed or take forever," he asserts. "Marketing is a balance of having that information and making good decisions, but sometimes as a professional, you need to value your experience and do what your instincts say."

"Keep in mind your data infrastructure might not be able to accurately measure sales or opportunity among distinct multicultural audiences, but don’t fret, many marketers are in the same boat," adds Dana Bonkowski. 

Some brands really know how to connect with multicultural audiences

Sometimes inspiration comes from looking at who has done it right in the past. "I saw some campaigns not too long ago for Narcos where they used the stars of the show to teach the audience Spanish," remembers Melissa Rodríguez. "They did it in a clever way though, they picked the slang or insults to translate and showed the different times they were used in the show. I found this to be an extremely clever and relatable campaign to connect with their multicultural audience."

Other examples that usually stand out include Toyota, a brand that has really succeeded in creating an emotional connection with Hispanics. As Albert Thompson explains, Toyota speaks to consumers that are originally from Latin American countries because the brand is already prominent there, so the audience has a highly-ingrained awareness about it.



Any brand can start multicultural marketing at any time (not really)

All interviewees agree that you cannot do multicultural marketing unless you're really willing to do it. It sounds obvious, but the truth is a real commitment is necessary is you want to achieve something. As Dana Bonkowski declares, "You need a willingness to jump in, to ask for help if you need it, and to commit to an initiative that measures the effects of engaging with these audiences in a culturally meaningful way. From there you can build an audience data story to help steer you in the years ahead."

There's always an opportunity when a company or a brand has the wish or the initiative and they really believe it's important to speak to this multicultural consumer.

"First, you should identify the opportunity to grow within the multicultural area," explains Teylez Perez. "Once the opportunity has been identified, and once you know what makes you unique and different from other products, you need to build a plan to find the best way to offer the product. I think there’s always an opportunity when a company or a brand has the wish or the initiative and they really believe it’s important to speak to this multicultural consumer."

Janet Grynberg @grynberg_janet

Janet has worked as editor and translator since 2013. After graduating with honors when receiving her Bachelor's Degree in English literature, she began working as a book reviewer for Expansión, the leading business magazine in Mexico. She has also worked as editor of young adult literature for publishing houses like Planeta and Penguin, and she's the author of a book of short stories. She's in the process of getting her MA in English at McGill University. Her interests include arts, good food, and her 8 pets.


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