Given the social unrest and political activism of the past few years, it’s little wonder that the term “multicultural marketing” is ubiquitous in marketing departments and agencies these days. It’s not a new term. Multicultural marketing as a formal business strategy has been in practice since the Sixties but really exploded in growth in the Nineties, when many large corporations both invested in and spoke openly about their multicultural marketing efforts.
Despite decades of history and some success stories, multicultural marketing is also littered with many high-profile failures, some of them recent. Take Houston 1836, Nivea’s “White Is Purity” ad, or D&G’s offensive chopsticks ad, to name a few.
A single misstep like this can have massive ramifications for a brand. Today, a small local company can be instantly catapulted onto the global stage by an offensive ad from which they may never recover. Even large companies are not immune. For example, even after multiple public apologies, D&G is still dealing with the fallout among its Chinese customer base years later.
Marketing itself is about connecting with people and building relationships that maximize value for a company. And despite the trendy-sounding term, “multicultural marketing” is fundamentally the same in this regard. But what sets it apart is in providing us with the tools and resources to connect with different audiences effectively using culturally relevant messaging and tactics.
Why is Multicultural Marketing Important?
Multicultural marketing does more than just save us from social media scorn. It helps us add depth to our brand and our messaging that resonates with more than just the culture from which it originated. It often provides us with key insights about our messaging, strategy, and even our products themselves that can help us increase revenue. And it helps us tap new markets when technology and globalization are fueling more competition than ever before. Those are some of the core benefits, but beyond the balance sheets, communicating with people in a respectful fashion is simply the right thing to do.
Future projections that our country is becoming more diverse are not the only reason multicultural marketing is here to stay. We’re in an era of technology-driven mass personalization, in which consumers expect you to speak directly to them and value what they do. How can you hope to connect with them if you don’t understand who they are and what they value?
How to Create a Multicultural Marketing Strategy
Many firms and marketers neglect to craft multicultural marketing strategies despite the high ROI many of these campaigns generate. Doing so takes time and effort, and not just from a market research perspective. Developing effective multicultural marketing strategies often requires firms and marketers to answer difficult questions about their organizations and challenge their own assumptions. And while many would rather steer clear of doing so, they increasingly put themselves at a competitive disadvantage.
Fundamentally, crafting a multicultural marketing strategy involves the same broad steps you’d take to craft a marketing plan:
- Assemble a marketing team with clearly defined roles and responsibilities
- Establish strategic marketing and business objectives
- Assess the landscape and identify your target consumer segment(s)
- Determine strategy and craft and test messaging
- Establish marketing tactics, tactical goals, assessment metrics, a budget, and a calendar
- Implement, launch, monitor, and adjust as necessary
However, when we plan a multicultural marketing strategy, how we accomplish each step differs in important ways from your typical marketing plan.
Assembling a Marketing Team
When we’re crafting a multicultural marketing strategy, the composition of our team matters. It’s important to have representative voices at the table that can help the team craft effective messaging while avoiding serious blunders.
But marketing departments have to strike a balance between ensuring representation and tokenizing minority staff. In some cases, firms may be forced to confront workforce diversity issues if a Chinese-American staffer is at the table every time a strategy must be developed to reach consumers of Asian descent.
While hiring practices are a broader issue, marketing firms must ensure that diverse voices are at the table when developing multicultural strategies.
Establishing Strategic Business and Marketing Objectives
Here, it’s important to establish that your multicultural business and marketing objectives are relational (rather than transactional), long-term, and well-resourced. Minority consumers know the companies that only throw up a Black History Month post or Cinco De Mayo ad every year. Doing so is shallow and transparent, and at best, you’ll be rewarded with consumer indifference.
Instead, your strategy needs to be year-round, grounded in the messages and values that resonate with your target customer segment. As with all great marketing plans, the intended outcome should be connecting with consumers, converting them into customers, establishing long-term relationships that keep them engaged, and evangelizing your brand.
That doesn’t happen with an ad every once in a blue moon. It requires marketing tactics, some cheap, some expensive, year-round, and the business resources to produce them.
Assess the Landscape and Identify Your Target Consumer Segment(s)
Beyond your competitive analysis, you’ll need to conduct market analysis with in-depth information about your target consumers. You can’t just settle for national datasets and research toplines. Delve deep into the cultures with whom you believe your product or service will most likely resonate.
What do they value? Which languages and dialects do they speak? What do they find hip or trendy? What do they consider taboo or offensive? And what guides their decision-making? You need to be able to answer these questions and more when you evaluate the market. And while this may require extra time and money, you can’t hope to connect to consumers of different cultures without this information.
Use this information to craft consumer personas that would truly resonate with the minority audiences you’re targeting. If you have a representative voice on your marketing team, get a gut check from them as to whether the persona is realistic before proceeding any further. And avoid graphics and stock images that appear staged. Authenticity is paramount. If it’s lacking, minority consumers will feel like you’re pandering.
Determine Strategy and Craft and Test Messaging
Now, you’ll want to hone in on your strategic decisions and address questions like “How will you reach these consumers?” and “Who are the ideal messengers?” Lean into your consumer personas to draft messaging and vigorously workshop it in focus groups of your target audience members. And pour into the feedback your focus groups share. If something strikes them as inauthentic, figure out why so that you can make the appropriate adjustments.
Pay special attention to the overlay of ethnic backgrounds with other demographic data as you craft your messaging. For example, affluent Mexicans and working-class Puerto Ricans are unlikely to receive the same message in the exact same manner. People of varying cultures perceive marketing messages differently, even if they share a common language.
When you’re developing bilingual messaging, it’s critical that each language is equitable in your messaging pieces and that no one language dominates the other. For example, on a print piece, each language should appear in the same-size font and both languages and images side-by-side. This layout will help you ensure each culture is afforded respect and dignity.
Establish Marketing Goals and Tactics, Assessment Metrics, Budget, and Calendar
The thoughtful and inclusive design of the tactics and logistics is just as important as how you implement them. Your tactics should be culturally relevant to your audience without relying on common stereotypes and cliche tropes. Pay attention to who your messengers are and how your message will be delivered. Again, rely on the representative voices at your table to give you a gut check on the plan to avoid inadvertently creating offense.
Assessment metrics are always key to any effective marketing plan yet are still often overlooked. With multicultural marketing, though, you need rigorous assessment measures that give you real-time feedback on your performance. Marketing ads and even tactics that are perceived as disrespectful can have a deep and lasting impact on your brand, so you need to keep a close eye on your work once it goes live.
Implement, Launch, Monitor, and Adjust As Necessary
Of course, you’ll need to actively monitor and adjust your work as your audience’s reaction demands. But you should also be considering how your efforts feed into the next multicultural campaign or initiative. Your work should be designed with long-term relationship-building in mind. So, you should mine your audience’s feedback for insights you can use to deepen your engagement with the minority segment with whom you’ve begun to engage.
Get Started on Your Strategy
Despite the importance of multicultural marketing, not every firm has the in-house staff expertise, time, or resources to build an effective multicultural strategy. Heck, some marketers can barely keep up with their inboxes each day. And when you decide to commit to a multicultural engagement, you have to be all-in. This means resource allocation, tough conversations, and a lot of hard work. It’s worth it, but not every firm has the chops to execute successfully.
That’s where we come in. HyFyve has deep experience working with companies in multiple verticals on their multicultural marketing strategies. We can help you assess your various audiences and craft the right strategies to communicate with each one. We’ll help you navigate this tough but rewarding work so you may better connect to underserved and untapped markets. Book a meeting with us and let’s discuss how we can reach more of the people you aim to serve.