Renowned social commentator Fareed Zakaria writes in his most recent book “the Post-American World” about the rise of the “the rest.” Zakaria explains how countries like India, China, Russia and Brazil have leveraged trade to open up and revitalize key domestic industries, resulting in surpluses and rates of growth surpassing our own and that of other industrialized nations.
The boom of these “emerging” economies has also been fueled by budding affluent consumer markets vying for the attention of global brands. What does this mean for American-inspired brand-building and what role can US multicultural advertising agencies and professional play in helping companies and brands figure out this next phase of global marketing.
The answer to this question is that American brands must become more flexible and open in how they speak to the rest of the world, and that multicultural marketing professionals can play a leadership role in helping clients understand and embrace this new marketing shift towards the “rest”, both domestically and globally.
Our client brands can no longer assume that an American-focused global positioning will work well in all countries, or that an English tagline will deliver on the emotional benefits that international consumers are looking for. Yes, many of the new consumers from India and China and other places crave American culture, but they also are also looking to leave a cultural imprint of their own. Brands that will be successful in this setting will be those that can swiftly adopt these cultures. I’ll call them the “cosmopolitan” brands.
As these brands look to become truly global, they must first look at what they’re practicing at home. When it comes to multicultural marketing Madison Avenue seems to be comfortable with integration into one seamless “All American” story told in English. But the industry struggles with more nuanced exercises such as when the brand needs to speak to different groups at a much deeper level, including different languages. That is one of the most important barriers brands face as they look south and East for new opportunities.
I’ve seen this challenge first hand with many client brands that question whether a Latino or multicultural interpretation of the brand positioning is inherently “off brand.” They get a bit scared by another language and the use of cultural elements that might make the communication seem “different.” They struggle to understand that the power of culture resides precisely in those unique and powerful elements that cannot be translated from one language to the another. It’s the ultimate consumer nugget that shows you get a consumer. But how do we explain culture?
And that is where multicultural marketers can play a stronger role in helping our clients understand the importance of leveraging cultures to connect with a changing domestic and global marketplace. We’ve been doing this for a while, highlighting that in order to engage people we must tap into those strong nuances that make consumers who they are. We must walk them through the benefits of having a brand that is consistent in its style but open to different ways of seeing the world. We must also help our clients understand new opportunities by looking at culture from different angles, such as the new markets created through the dialogue between emerging countries and the immigrant diaspora in the states. It will be by creating “cosmopolitan” brands that we will evolve from multicultural partners to branding partners responsible for the creation of a next generation of truly global brands.
President & CEO, The Vox Collective