December 04, 2009

The decade of the 2010's will require more cultural sensitivity than ever before. Not that cultural sensitivity was not needed much earlier in the US and around the world, but conditions are ripe now for understanding how culture can enhance profits and better marketing.

Cultural marketing is not something nice to do to show good citizenship. Cultural marketing is a profit making enterprise. Let me explain. If we accept that emotion is at the core of selling, advertising, and marketing, then culture is a shortcut for reaching the emotions of many people at the same time. Culture consists of objective and subjective designs for living that are passed from generation to generation. The components of culture are what we are raised with in our early years. We are taught what is right and wrong and what is good and bad. When we are enculturated we are given lessons that become warm feelings that generally persist until we die.

The beliefs, feelings, and values that encompass subjective culture are shared by many people in our culture. That is why marketing to Hispanics as a culture makes sense. It is not so much because of the external manifestation of culture like food and dress, but because Hispanics share so much in common because of historical roots that overlap with religion and language.

Marketing to Hispanics as a culture is a way of connecting with these consumers at deeper levels. It is a way of communicating why a product or idea makes sense from the perspective of the consumer and evoking the deepest emotions that become ingrained in the process of enculturation.

Clearly, the same can be said about almost any other cultural group. Marketing to a culture in cultural terms is about touching those cords that have been instilled in us since childhood. While I understand that eventually marketing will be a one-on-one relationship, cultural marketing is a good interim way to bridge the gap between marketing to the masses (as if they ever existed), and understanding the individual's values and deep rooted perceptions of the world at the most personalized level.

Cultural marketing is a shortcut that minimizes the trajectory and produces results. It needs to be authentic and honest because it is about relationships. It requires that the marketer understands the culture. It is not a matter of making a gesture, it is an endeavor of commitment and dedication. Cultural marketing is not about obvious portrayals of families, soccer, or salsa music but about understanding the underlying perceptions that members of a culture share. While portrayals of soccer, families, and salsa music can be very important as tactical elements, underlying subjective elements of the culture can provide true insights for positioning and strategy.

Cheers to all for the 2010's and the challenge of doing cultural marketing right.

By Felipe Korzenny
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