What: We talked to multicultural marketing experts, Rent-A-Center’s Maria Albrecht, NFL’s Marissa Fernandez, Group M’s LaToya Christian, and Intuit’s John Sandoval about key brand attributes for successful multicultural marketing.
Why it matters: As ethnic minorities become majorities in the U.S., companies will need to do multicultural marketing if they wish to survive.
When is the right time to do multicultural marketing? Who are the right brands to do it? Which are the right attributes for success? Portada talked to a group of multicultural marketing experts. Unsurprisingly, all their answers point unequivocally in the same direction. If you have a business and wish to be relevant, you have to do multicultural marketing. Take note of the following pieces of advice and be ready for the future.
1. Being Inclusive Isn’t Optional Anymore
“Diversity” and “inclusion” are two of today’s buzzwords, but they deserve every tiny part of the buzz. “At this stage of the game just understanding the U.S. landscape, demographics, and the way culture is being adapted is what all brands should be striving for,” says LaToya Christian, Associate Director of Marketing Analytics, Multicultural at Group M. “Work to be culturally inclusive and relevant across the board regardless of what segment you’re referring to.”
Multicultural marketing is no longer an afterthought or checked box; it has become a key strategy for business growth.
There’s no reason why any brand shouldn’t start thinking about doing multicultural marketing. In fact, they’d already be starting late. “Looking at the US population current data, as well as the projections, I’d be hard-pressed to believe there are many businesses that wouldn’t benefit from multicultural marketing,” observed Marissa Fernandez, Director, Marketing Strategy and Fan Development at the NFL. Multicultural consumers are already a significant part of the population, and their presence will continue to grow. Ignoring this would be a missed opportunity for any brand.
“Multicultural marketing is no longer an afterthought or checked box; it has become a key strategy for business growth,” explained along these lines John Sandoval, Senior Brand and Latino Marketing Manager at Intuit. “It’s time for brands to acknowledge this diversity as well. As long as you have customers purchasing your products, you should be considering multicultural marketing.”
2. The First Step is Pure Demographics
Even before thinking about brand attributes, you need to seriously consider whom you’re addressing. Deciding to do multicultural marketing is obviously not enough. The first steps are looking closely at your target, and also at your own positioning. “‘Multicultural consumers’ is a very heterogeneous group,” asserts NFL’s Marissa Fernandez. “Strive to narrow the target based on potential right to win and size of business opportunity.” There’s no way to reach all multicultural consumers at once just as it happens with non-multicultural consumers. Hence the importance of specific targeting.
If you’re not speaking to them, you’re not connecting with them. From a pure demographics perspective that raises a flag for me.
Moreover, as Group M’s Latoya Christian explains, looking at pure demographics gives you an idea of who you should try to reach. “If you’re a regional brand, like a brand we had from Georgia,” she tells us, “one of the first things that I think of is ‘What’s going on with your African-American consumers?‘ By pure demographics that is who is in that area. If you’re not speaking to them, you’re not connecting with them. From a pure demographics perspective that raises a flag for me.”
3. The Key to the Treasure: Be True to Yourself
There is no magical recipe for successful multicultural marketing, except perhaps being true to your values and asking yourself the right questions. “You shouldn’t necessarily alter your brand essence or who you are as a brand to force a fit or to appeal to one specific audience,” noted LaToya Christian. “It should be less about the brand changing itself and more about how it’s positioning itself based on what consumers needs are.”
Multicultural marketing experts must ask brands a few questions to ensure they remain relevant. For example, according to John Sandoval, we need to ask “Is your brand connecting to this audience on an emotional level? Are you listening to them? Are you engaging in two-way conversations with them through social media? Do you have cultural consultants who can help ensure the messages are relevant? Where and how is your product being consumed? Does this differ from general market, or even within the various regions of the country?”
4. Don’t forget Universal Appeal and Relevance!
Having said that, it is possible to observe that brands who are successful in multicultural environments have a few important characteristics; the most important one, though ironically, is relevance independently from segment. In the words of Maria Albrecht, Hispanics Markets Lead Marketer at Rent-A-Center, “A brand’s attributes must have universal appeal and must also leverage the points of convergence and divergence that exists in the market, especially as they relate to customers’ needs, wants, aspirations, and expectations.”
Just as when addressing any audiences, brands targeting multicultural consumers must be sure to be relevant. As John Sandoval would ask, “Could a multicultural audience say ‘This is a brand for me’?”. He says brands also need to be functional and beneficial. In his words, ask yourself these questions: “Is this product something that consumers can use regardless of culture? How will my brand help improve the consumer’s life?” Among the tools Sandoval recommends to be more relevant, brands can try for bilingual/biculturally appealing information, credible brand ambassadors, and distribution in key markets.
5. According to Multicultural Marketing Experts, Here’s What You Shouldn’t Do
Mistakes are easy to make, and more often than not these stem from misconceptions or from going off a tangent. These are the 5 mistakes our interviewees identified as the most common, together with their advice to avoid them:
Misconceptions of the various segments:
“Sometimes a lot of what we see is misconceptions or biases about the various segments,” points out LaToya Christian. “I know in the Hispanic segment marketers sometimes get very lazy and they automatically go to language. So it’s like ‘Oh, if I just do it in Spanish, cool, I’m done.’ You really need to take some time to understand who the consumer group is, how to utilize brands within your category, how to speak to them, what are their nuances beyond just a language perspective”.
Looking at your product through your own biases:
As explained by Christian, “One of the things that unfortunately as marketers we sometimes do is we put ourselves into the minds of the consumers, which is not accurate because we’re not always the consumer of certain brand or product.” Then, marketers need to push their own looking glass aside and really take the time “to understand how consumers are behaving, what they say about their brand, and really taking it from that perspective,” she says.
Multicultural marketing experts must understand their field is an art and a science. Even with all the data in the world at your disposal, you can check off the “Science” box, but there’s still the “Art” side of the equation.
Waiting too long to act:
“I think sometimes companies overanalyze the opportunity and fail to see there is financial risk in inaction,” asserts Marissa Fernandez. “I encourage brands to test, start small, minimize the risk, measure, learn, do research, and grow multicultural efforts, even if it’s slowly over time. The business opportunity is probably too big to pass up.”
Not using enough data:
“Any info needed to develop and execute a winning strategy must be triangulated by at least three sources such as the company’s performance results, internal and external surveys, customer focus groups, qualitative or quantitative research, targeting tools, store/location visits, customer polls, social media feedback, or competition’s moves,” recommends Maria Albrecht. “Relying on one or two sources will only lead to an incomplete view of the market’s landscape. Also, we’d be missing opportunities for the company.”
Relying too much on data:
“Multicultural marketing should not be about building data in order to start. Instead, it should be about leveraging existing data to launch a program and using those real-life examples and results to tailor and improve communication with this audience,” says John Sandoval. “Multicultural marketing experts must understand their field is an art and a science. Even with all the data in the world at your disposal, you can check off the “Science” box, but there’s still the “Art” side of the equation.”
In conclusion, keeping an eye on the future is important, but the future is already here. As Marissa Fernandez points out, “we know the future of our country IS diverse, IS multicultural. I’m a believer that in our lifetime, multicultural marketing won’t be called that anymore— it will just be MARKETING.”