Ethnic Consumers more receptive than Peers to Marketing – most believe messaging lacks relevancy.

According to Yankelovich’s 2007/2008 MONITOR Multicultural Marketing Study, African American and Hispanic customers are almost twice as likely to “enjoy looking at or listening” to advertising than their peers, but most find current messaging is not relevant.. The study shows that only 25% of African American. Hispanic and Non-Hispanic White consumers feel that today’s marketing is both personally and culturally relevant to their lives. To make brands more attractive to a multicultural audience, brand managers need to implement integrated marketing strategies which address life-stage and personal interests in addition to cultural values.

“Multicultural marketing needs to become more multi-dimensional,” notes Sonya Suarez-Hammond, Vice President of Multicultural Marketing Insights at
Yankelovich. “Of course, not every advertising spot or print ad needs to reach a Hispanic or African American consumer on all three dimensions of relevance. “But, an overall campaign should. The more integrated and relevant the messaging, the stronger the overall brand connection will be.”

According to the study, ethnic consumers are considerably more receptive to marketing and advertising messages than their peers. Roughly six in ten (60%) African Americans and Hispanics (59%) indicate that they “enjoy looking at or listening to advertising,” compared with 30% of Non-Hispanic Whites.

The study was developed in collaboration with Burrell Communications and Dr. Felipe Korzenny, professor and director of the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication at Florida State University. Since 2003, the study has been the first of its kind to examine ethnic consumer behaviors and attitudes and offer comparative and contrasting views of the African American, U.S. Hispanic and Non-Hispanic White markets.

The study stresses that ethnic consumers are less homogenous as a group than marketers often assume. There are many important sub-segments. In the
Hispanic market for example these would include Bicultural Hispanics who are navigating between two cultures and Spanish-Oriented High Cultural Affinity consumers who are less acculturated and more likely to have stronger ties to traditional cultural values such as collectivism and group decision making. Whereas 79% of respondents in the Spanish-Oriented High Cultural Affinity segment say “I am unwavering in my commitment to my extended family,” for example, only 44% of Bicultural Hispanics feel the same sense of responsibility to extended family members.

“Ethnic consumers have very distinct preferences and respond to different emotional hot buttons,” said Suarez-Hammond. “Therefore marketers must refine their messaging to avoid generalization and highlight brand relevance and authenticity.”

Cultural Pinpointing

Cultural pinpointing is about marketing to ethnic consumers in an authentic way, with messaging meant exclusively for them. Cultural pinpointing helps marketers protect the quality of their dialogue with African American and Hispanic consumers. The need to consider cultural pinpointing in developing a multicultural marketing strategy comes from the fact that more and more we are seeing the borrowing of ethnic market cultural elements as a way of staying on top of trends, influencing lifestyle behavior and fashionably engaging the general population. Too much borrowing of ethnic cultural elements or icons for crossover appeal dilutes authenticity with ethnic consumers.

With four out of ten Non-Hispanic Whites agreeing that African Americans and Hispanics influence everyone’s lifestyle, it’s not surprising that marketers are using African American and Hispanic icons and cultural elements to reach broader audiences.

“The commercialization of culture is a difficult line to navigate,” said Suarez-Hammond. “Marketers must recognize that the more cross-cultural appeal a cultural element has, the less authentically and exclusively African American or Hispanic it becomes.”

Hip-hop music is a good case-in-point. When African American respondents were asked about aspects of their culture and traditions they feel are the most important to preserve, “Music/Songs” was cited second most frequently, right behind “History.” As different types of African American music/songs become increasingly borrowed by the general population, they may become less effective as a means of connecting directly with African American consumers. So in this example mainstream hip-hop artists that are known to general audiences would not be considered as authentic as using more “underground” artists known exclusively by African American audiences.

Getting To the Heart of the Matter

Awareness of what is and isn’t healthy is greater than ever before for the African American and Hispanic communities. And, with increased awareness levels comes a greater need for health- and wellness-oriented messaging that offers specificity, action steps and guidance.

– 63% of Hispanics and 60% of African Americans cite “the health of other family members” as a major stressor, compared to 51% of Non-Hispanic Whites.

– Nutrition is a key concern. 91% of Hispanic Moms and 80% of African American Moms, versus 67% of Non-Hispanic White Moms agree, “I put a lot of care and emotion into my cooking.” This is important because recognizing “food as love” becomes a healthcare barrier for ethnic consumers.

– In response to “why I want to eat healthily, sounds exactly like me”, 61% of Hispanics and 57% of African Americans cited “to avoid diabetes”, compared with 39% of Non-Hispanic Whites.

“Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies need to move beyond base-line awareness.” said Suarez-Hammond, “The positive healthcare awareness messages are working, but there’s still a disconnect. Marketers need to offer ethnic groups more next steps and how-to guides as necessary tools in order to begin affecting behavior change.”

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