ANA’s New Alliance Helps Step Up Game in Multicultural Marketing

What: We caught up with industry pioneer Rochelle Newman-Carrasco of Walton Isaacson at the ANA Multicultural Conference and asked her a few questions about the growing momentum of The Alliance of Multicultural Marketing (AIMM).
Why It Matters: Carrasco shared insight from the founding members of AIMM in order to provide a range of perspectives on areas of importance to the industry.


In October 2016, the Association for National Advertisers took an important step in encouraging the industry’s progress when it established the Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing to establish a “powerful, unified voice for the advancement of multicultural marketing.” A year later, the group is working cooperatively, transparently, and methodically to set the groundworks for a marketing industry that better reflects today’s diverse audiences.

Industry Must ‘Separate Excuses from Legitimate Concerns’

When the AIMM met in August 2017, it was stated that accessibility, accuracy, and affordability of multicultural-specific data were some of the most significant obstacles in developing effective strategies for advancing Multicultural. But what strategies are in place to tackle these challenges?   

Carlos Santiago, President of Santiago Solutions Group explained: “The Alliance is identifying issues that are standing in the way of progress and then bringing unified industry clout to the table in order to change supplier behavior insofar as diverse consumer groups are concerned.”

There is a tendency (perhaps due to lack of access effective data) to make excuses when it comes to Multicultural, and “the key is spending the necessary time to separate excuses from legitimate concerns – having zero tolerance for cop-outs like ‘it’s too hard’ or ‘it’s too expensive,’” Santiago added.

Santiago explained that the “siloed approach to problem solving” may not work as well as “having diversity of thought come up with innovative solutions,” which is why the Metrics and Measurement Committee, led by Gonzalo del Fa of Group M Multicultural (who is also a Portada Editorial Board member), has “laid out a really robust plan of action, and [the group is] moving into a very exciting stage of implementation that will include a Multicultural Data Roundtable.”

‘It’s No Longer Possible to Keep this Failure Hidden’

This is not the first time that marketers have sounded the alarm and expressed how urgent this Multicultural crisis is. So what’s different this time?

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco, EVP at Walton Isaacson, insisted that “it’s no longer possible to keep this failure hidden, especially from internal and external stakeholders for whom ‘multicultural’ is more than a department.”

Failing to reach and connect with Multicultural audiences has real implications for all serious brands in today’s world, and “for many consumers and employees, multicultural matters are life and death matters — matters of image and identity that can inspire or alienate generations to come,” Carrasco said.

‘Whole Communities of Consumers Are Missing or Minimized’

Perhaps one of the first steps in making real progress is holding brands accountable for their lack of effort. Carrasco explained that “poor performance is directly related to segment-specific neglect, whole communities of consumers are missing or minimized throughout the marketing cycle—missing from staffing, budgeting, and creative representation.”

While some more visionary brands are stepping up to make their Multicultural efforts more than a symbolic gesture, “other brands are having their course corrected by consumers who will no longer accept failure at their expense,” Carrasco insisted. “Marketers must understand that culturally-specific marketing is not just a theoretical exercise or something to track in the P&L or on a spreadsheet.”

Brands ‘Discovering Ways to Balance the Benefits of Collaboration with Restrictive Guardrails’

While sharing Best Practices and lessons learned from experiments in Multicultural are key if the industry as a whole is to progress, “certainly there is a natural reticence to share proprietary details” said Lisette Arsuaga, Co-President and COO of Davila Multicultural Insights. But she emphasized that this is changing, and that “brands are discovering ways to balance the benefits of collaboration with restrictive guardrails.”

What do brands get out of sharing and collaborating? “Participation in an exchange that triggers discovery and progress in ways that hunkering down and walling off a brand do not,” Arsuaga said.

“Within the framework of AIMM, we see brands seizing opportunities to enter into dialogue with one another and to offer up their processes while taking in the learnings of others.”

Arsuaga also added that making a unified effort to bring in new, diverse talent is key: “Multicultural cannot reach its full potential without filling a pipeline with new talent and joining together to do so.”

The ‘Total Market’ Problem

After the August meeting, Carrasco of Walton Isaacson asserted that the AIMM was exploring the effectiveness of the term ‘Total Market,’ saying that “while the Total Market Committee has not yet repealed and replaced the phrase ‘Total Market,’ there is data to support that its usage, and often random application, has hindered rather than helped marketers to powerfully connect with multicultural communities.” Since then, AIMM’s Total Market Committee, led by David Cardona of Clorox and Javier Delgado of Coca-Cola, has dedicated a significant amount of effort to reaching a definitive conclusion on how well ‘Total Market’ works for the industry, launching a campaign called #TotalMarketDoneRight.

Gilbert Davila, Chair, ANA Multicultural Marketing and Diversity Committee asserted that “AIMM’s aim is to shatter myths and address the many misinterpretations that have occurred since this concept was introduced several years ago.”

Davila explained that “Total Market was intended to level the playing field and bring multicultural marketers to the mainstream marketing table where they rightly belonged…Instead, the concept became a convenient excuse for eliminating resources and budgetary line items in the name of efficiencies.”

While Total Market was supposed to address the “absence of multicultural consumers in what is often referred to as ‘mainstream’ marketing, it was not intended to eliminate culturally targeted marketing nor was it meant to make cultural specialists irrelevant,” Davila clarified.

‘If You’re Not Reflecting Diverse Audiences You’re Rejecting Diverse Audiences’

Where will the AIMM go from here? While Davila reinforced that “AIMM is laser-focused on bringing back the integrity of marketing that is both universal and unique,” the renewed and refreshed commitment to this topic will require concrete actions that the group is ready to spearhead.

Santiago of Santiago Solutions Group described the AIMM’s approach as “going down a path of disruption and innovation and avoiding the well-worn traditional approaches to quick but unremarkable fixes.”

The intent is there, but hopefully action will follow. “Marketers create messages that impact the mirror we hold up to America and the world – if you’re not reflecting diverse audiences you’re rejecting diverse audiences and that’s not solved with casting, it’s only solved with clarity and commitment,” Carrasco emphasized.