In Multicultural Marketing – one size does not fit all.

   By Jessica Pantanini, chair of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA) and COO of Bromley Communications.

Last week, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) held its annual Multicultural Marketing Conference, and despite a heavy-hitting agenda focused on the importance of targeted and relevant communication to drive growth in the multicultural segment, many attendees and reporters walked away with the misperception that a singular insight focused on cultural commonalities should guide marketing strategy.  That one-size-fits-all marketing approach doesn’t deliver multicultural consumers.  In fact, some of the country’s top marketing thought leaders at the conference cited case studies in which specific multicultural insights, which reporters erroneously called narrowcasting, indeed were the cornerstone of their profit-building campaigns.

Perhaps the confusion was driven by Ogilvy’s sponsorship of the conference and the launch of their new cross-cultural practice.  The unilateral marketing approach may sound appealing to save costs, but mass marketing will wipe out brands…and that wasn’t the message multicultural marketers were delivering.

The conference theme – Multicultural is the New Mainstream – and opening remarks from Gilbert Dávila, chair of the ANA’s multicultural marketing and diversity committee, reiterated the importance of targeted marketing to achieve full business potential.  “You can’t target these markets the same way you’ve targeted the general market to date,” Dávila said.  “We’ve got to devise creative ways to reach these groups – either in English or in their own native or cultural languages- so that our messages make them feel we are talking to THEM. To not address multicultural groups in culturally relevant ways is a huge mistake too many make.

“In the Hispanic market, we recognize that Spanish language remains the language of the heart and of preference, and is critically important to an effective communications platform. If you take nothing else from this conference, please remember that just because you can speak English to a multicultural audience, doesn’t mean that you can include them in your marketing efforts without taking their language, preferences and cultural cues into consideration.  Multicultural groups don’t ask to be included; they expect to be represented.”

Savvy marketers like Betsy Frank, chief research and insights officer at Time Inc., understand that as well.  “Because powerful storytelling is at the center of everything we do, our brands need to incorporate the perspective and needs of the multicultural audience into the stories we tell,” Frank says.  “We need to tailor marketing and business strategies accordingly.”

That’s the value that a specialized Hispanic agency brings.

Let’s dispel the belief that Hispanic agencies fear general market agencies because GM agencies can do it better than Hispanic-specialized shops.  The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.   Our objection is that their approach – a cross-cultural strategy – is one that waters down communication in order to be everything to everybody and waters down the results.

Here’s an example.  The journey of our Latina Millennial mom is very different than other cultures.  Rather than being the child who was given a trophy for every activity, which would lead her to become more ‘me’ focused; it was the hard work of her parents and the respect that she has for them that has driven her to succeed.

The general market would say, “Ah!  Millennials are more ‘ME’ focused and that’s our point of convergence for all moms so therefore we can execute one communication strategy.”  However; that approach lacks sensitivity to why the Latina mom is the way she is.  Guess what?  The more inspirational way of talking to Millennials just may be through the Latina insight.

Clients are demanding a holistic approach to marketing with a single brand voice, but that doesn’t mean sacrificing targeted communication.  The goal should be to bring the insight to the strategy, and if the granularity demands a separate communication, so be it.  If not, fine; but do the homework!  Let the cultural experts help guide the development of the communication.

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