In August 2019, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) reported the results of a study on multicultural media spending. While almost 40% of the US population is multicultural, media investments towards these groups was only 5.2% of total spending. They concluded that marketers have an opportunity to engage with multicultural consumers and drive business growth.
In early June 2020, the ANA released a statement along with their diversity arm the Alliance for Inclusive & Multicultural Marketing (AIMM) acknowledging the lack of progress in diversity and inclusion and asking member companies to sign a pledge agreeing to do everything possible to “end systemic racism and achieve equality and justice.”
It’s taken most marketers a long time to realize that they’re not only marketing to WASPs (White Anglo Saxon Protestants)—and we have a renewed responsibility to use our brands to communicate to all of our customers. But now that we’re becoming more aware of the diversity of the people who watch our ads and buy our products, we run the risk of attempting multi-cultural marketing that doesn’t connect with our target audience.
Using an image that looks racially ambiguous or hiring a non-white actor for a commercial may check the boxes, but will often lack the authenticity to connect. We need to go back to the beginning, understand our diverse audiences, engage them on our teams and in our evaluations, and then continuously check to make sure we’re establishing multicultural marketing that is authentic, based on real data about our audience, and connects with individual multicultural audiences.
Advantages of Multicultural Marketing that Connects
Besides the fact that multicultural marketing can reach the 40% of the population that has been missed in past campaigns, multicultural marketing makes good business sense. It promotes global brand recognition, gives brands a much wider reach, connects with millennials and Gen X who are are more broadly looking for inclusivity in the companies they support, and can work to counteract systemic racism and promote inclusivity.
According to LINCHPINSEO, marketing diversity leads to companies outperforming their competition by 15%, “70% of black millennials stated that they are more likely to buy from a brand that releases a campaign that talks about race-related issues”, and “80% of marketers agree that showcasing nontraditional families helps build a brand’s reputation”.
Google, Ipsos, and The Female Quotient surveyed consumers in the summer of 2019, and found that “64% of those surveyed said they took some sort of action after seeing an ad that they considered to be diverse or inclusive.” Those results were even higher for Latinx, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, LGBTQ, millennial, and teen consumers.
Marketing has always had the power to challenge people’s thinking and create new trends. Multicultural marketing is no exception, and it’s good for business. By 2042 there will be no dominant ethnic group in the United States, so it’s time right now to stop only marketing to white people.
Multicultural Marketing 101
Multicultural marketing needs to start with the right mindset from within your brand. The best researched and planned campaign can backfire if your corporate structure involves bias, racism, or indifference. Outdoor Voices is one company whose marketing images appeared diverse, but was accused by an employee of “using POC bodies to sell an image to the public”—just one of many problems the brand is facing now that stem from a true lack of corporate diversity.
Before you begin any sort of multicultural marketing you need to know your audience. If you’re already trying to market without doing this, it’s time to step back and start over. In an article for MarTech Advisor, Chiradeep BasuMallick lists this as the top priority when creating a multicultural marketing strategy. As Carlos Santiago (co-founder of AIMM) says, “We found that highly relevant ads go beyond winking and recognizing diversity and inclusion… These ads enhance brand perception, increase brand effectiveness, and significantly lift purchase intent and loyalty.”
Who are your multicultural customers? Use your data to find out. CRM solutions and DMPs are a good place to start. Then, move to third-party research and A/B experiments with focus groups. As you identify cultural groups, get their perspective on messaging that resonates, product traits they look for, and visual preferences.
Learn what channels are best and when are the top engagement timelines. Nielsen.com is a good resource to get an overview of consumer behaviors for different demographics, but we recommend getting to know the unique details of your brand’s audiences after you have an overview.
Your audience personas will need updating as you learn more about your customers. Companies who are connecting with their multicultural customers have personas that are as diverse as their customers.
Does your agency include decision-makers from various cultures? If not, bring in a genuinely diverse third-party agency to review your content to ensure you are not falling into the traps of stereotyping or cultural prejudice. Better yet, hire multicultural team members. As Fresh Business Thinking states, “Without a diverse and open minded team you could be missing out on amazing opportunities.” You can also diversify your teams with freelancers and diverse agencies.
One caveat to multicultural marketing: you don’t need to address every single group. Choose to market to the multicultural audiences that are relevant to your brand. It will likely take some research to identify who is and isn’t relevant, but once you have identified the groups, then you can work to understand them and create campaigns that connect. Any time your research shows data that doesn’t fit with your campaign, it’s time to change your campaign.
How to Make Your Marketing Connect
You won’t connect with your audience if you don’t speak to them! Zebra Strategies has seven tips for conducting your multicultural marketing research:
- Do your homework
- Keep the differences in mind
- Always ask first
- Don’t assume anything
- Feedback is essential
- Language matters
- Be prepared to be uncomfortable
There are too many examples of companies who didn’t check their campaigns before launching and became known for their anti-inclusive messaging. Check, check, and triple check with focus groups, with your research, with your diverse team, agencies, and freelancers so you are certain your campaign will connect before launching it.
Never assume you know what your audience wants. Ask them, listen to their answers, and incorporate this into your marketing. If you get feedback that suggests you’ve missed the mark, listen and address the issues. In the example of the Dove campaign (below), they failed to listen to feedback initially, but now they are seeking feedback and using it effectively. That can go a long way in re-establishing brand trust when it’s been lost.
Be careful not to assume that all consumers from an ethnic background are the same. Learn what the environmental, social, and economic influences are that are relevant to your audiences and how they respond to marketing efforts. And remember that your audiences will change, so you need to keep going back to them to make sure your messaging is relevant and sincere.
We love this statement from Zebra Strategies: “It’s not a matter of pulling at people’s heartstrings with cheesy ads. It’s more of showing them that you know they’re your consumers and you love them for it, no matter where they come from.” When you do this, you’re creating marketing that connects.
Multicultural Marketing Examples that Connect
One of the best multicultural marketing campaigns is Nike’s Dream Crazy campaign that won the Best in Show award at the 2019 ANA Multicultural Marketing and Diversity Conference:
Fenty Beauty is a company that’s been diverse and inclusive from the start. It provides beauty products for people with “shades and colors for ALL skin tones”. Their launch campaign in 2017 made beauty history.
Another example is Chevrolet’s Discover the Unexpected. You can read a summary of some of the campaign’s content here.
Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty was launched in 2004 and continues to focus on the message that all women are beautiful. Although they have made some big mistakes, it looks like the company is working to listen to their audience as they continue to promote diversity. Dove’s Real Beauty pledge continues to this effort by promising to use advertisements with real women, portrayed as they are in real life, and focuses on body confidence and self-esteem.
Multicultural Marketing Opportunities
One opportunity to expand your brand’s connection with multicultural communities is by working with ethnic influencers.
Elle.com recently released a list of 40 BAME Fashion Influencers to Follow on Instagram. Instagram is not without problems—its own algorithm favors white influencers—so amplifying the voices of ethnic influencers and hiring them to work with brands is one way to better connect with multicultural audiences. As the Elle article points out, these influencers are not necessarily on Instagram to educate people about racism so don’t try to use them for this purpose. IZEA.com is a company that connects brands with influencers, and they have a featured page with some diverse influencers and their stories.
Another opportunity is to run an acceptance campaign where your brand clearly states its inclusion, diversity, and acceptance priorities. But in order for this type of campaign to connect, it needs to reflect careful, well thought-out policies behind true brand commitment. If your teams lack diversity, an acceptance campaign will be rightly called out for being empty of meaning.
Multicultural marketing that connects doesn’t just connect with your target audiences, it also signals to the majority of audiences that care about diversity and inclusion—in particular Gen X and millennials. It connects by speaking to groups using influencers that share similar backgrounds, it connects by using the channels that specific groups prefer, and it connects by giving images, stories, and experiences that accurately reflect audiences lifestyles, history, perspectives, and needs.