1. Time to Go to Back to Basics
The first step towards integrating multicultural marketing into your business shouldn't be asking if there's an opportunity there (which is clear), but rather to understand what that opportunity is. "The business-building power of multicultural America is the strongest it’s ever been," pointed out Starcom's Dana Bonkowski, "but it’s also the hardest time right now." In spite of the technologies and tools available, times are hard for our industry. How can we keep consumers' attention? How can we keep up with new platforms and devices? What to do in the face of algorithm changes, brand safety concerns, and on top of it all, how to establish an emotional connection through all the clutter with a population that's more diverse each day?
Starcom's Dana Bonkowski
According to Dana Bonkowski, multicultural should be included from the very first brief. If the client doesn't talk about it, make them, and keep in mind that doing so is not a mere tactic or a checked box. "Multicultural is a group of people. It’s not a tactic or a box; it’s a group of individuals that could very possibly solve whatever business challenge you might be faced with, so as a collective, we want to make sure that we’re helping partners do that." And this is precisely what needs to be done: agencies are faced with the task of re-educating clients on what this business opportunity means.
Not taking the time is a disservice to our partners and a disservice to the community, because you don’t really understand what is driving your business.
Publicis Media's Jessica Román
“Given the evolving landscape, it’s an interesting time in our marketplace, in which we may need to take a step back and assist clients in identifying the business opportunity that the multicultural segment represents for them and within their category," explained Publicis Media's Jessica Román. "For some clients, it just may be a re-education of this segment and a reminder of among other things, the amazing buying power that it represents”.
For Cynthia Dickson, this effort to "go back in time" has to do with remembering what agencies used to do when the industry wasn't so specialized in niches and an agency was expected to do everything. "Something that we did at a full-service agency was focus groups. We really took the time to understand your consumer base," she told. "Not taking the time nowadays is a disservice to our partners, and a disservice to the community because you don’t really understand what is driving your business". Further, she suggests to really go back to basics and do some introspection work. Before even researching the market, assess your own positioning: "Start first with your product and your company. Really do the research there, start at the basics, and that’s really going to help your partners understand your business and drive it forward."
2. Start at the Beginning
Hearts & Science's José Bello
As Hearts & Science's José Bello explained, still in 2018 it is possible to hear clients saying that they want to test whether multicultural would help their brand grow. "That's not what we should be testing," he declared. "We know for sure and all the numbers show that most businesses will increase and will be impacted. We should be testing for the best tactics and the best creatives". However, it's not that easy to make brands understand where the testing efforts need to go. For better or for worse, part of an agency's job is saying "no" if a test is not funded appropriately or the design is flawed, and education is a big part of the equation.
We're pretty fortunate that we have quite a bit of data, then we actually crunch it and tell the story, which is actually the biggest challenge.
UM's David Queamante
The next possible first step could be getting the data, but then the question always tends to be how much data is enough to start. As the wheels of retail move more and more quickly; getting data is not in the least as difficult as what happens next. "We’re pretty fortunate that we have quite a bit of data. Processing all of it, and boiling it down to useful insights, can actually be the biggest challenge," pointed out UM Worldwide's David Queamante. "Sometimes you have to start with tactic tests and then refine your tactic strategy as more data comes in. Because there is a lag in the data, sometimes we have to make the best decisions we can before all the data is in." Most times, agrees Starcom USA's Darcy Bowe, you just have to start talking to that audience you weren't paying attention to. "We may not have time to do qualitative research to get deep insights," she says, "we can just use quantitative research and say “Hey, you’re not even talking to some people”.
3. Multicultural vs Total Market: a Matter of Balance
How can brands solve the issue of targeting multicultural audiences? To what an extent should they segment their target? Ultimately, where's the balance between total market initiatives and multicultural ones? In 2014, AHAA defined the total market concept as "A marketing approach [...] which proactively integrates diverse segment considerations [...] with the goal of enhancing value and growth effectiveness." Having one overarching strategy could have seemed a good idea a few years ago, but it just doesn't coincide with reality anymore.
Image by Jcomp
For José Bello, this is one of the worst things that have happened to marketing in the last few years. "I think we all understand the total market philosophy but, unfortunately, it got lost in translation among non-multicultural agency teams and clients and it hurt us all. So perhaps it would be more clear if we go back to multicultural, going back to U.S. Hispanics, African-American, etc, instead of the total market bucket, I think that’s where we all need to push," he reflected. In the end, it's not that the total market concept doesn't work, but rather that we may have asked too much from it. As Jessica Román asserted, “I don’t believe the Total Market concept will go away; however, the pendulum may have been swung too far and we may need to bring it back in order to find what that optimal balance is. There are times when you have to pause, analyze and tweak what’s before you. In some cases, you even may have to take a step or two back, before you can fully move forward with a truly successful total market approach.”
You may also like: Key Brand Attributes for Successful Multicultural Marketing According to GroupM, Intuit, NFL, and Rent-A-Center
Another matter of balance is the issue of segmentation. It might sound complicated, but again it is a matter of understanding your position. In the first place, we need to understand that consumers are groups of people, and since it is impossible to target each one of them separately, we have to appeal to them as humans, using universal attributes as much as possible. For agencies, the real issue isn't here. "Sometimes it's easy to find challenges that are not grave enough to make agencies feel like they’re not doing a good enough job," commented Dana Bonkowski. "We all have proprietary rules and research that are at our disposal. Sometimes clients are interested in seeing them, sometimes they’re not. So the sooner that we can remind our clients to really empower themselves, to set them off for success, that’s what we’re going after."
If you're going to focus on the white half of the population, you're going to miss the mark, period. If you're not incorporating a multicultural media mix, you're trying to move the needle but you're only pushing on half of the audience.
Therefore, trust your agency, as they know how much segmentation you actually have to do. However, as Cynthia Dickson explained, you need to understand your position before expecting your partners to be able to help. "Maybe your product is for a specific generation of consumers, or they’re bilingual consumers, because that’s your platform or your product. Without you understanding the basic marketing position of your brand, it’s really hard for your partners to help you succeed. That’s really what’s gonna help us make those decisions and put your dollar in front of the person that’s gonna purchase your product."
4. Creative Is Important, Collaboration Even More So