This is the second in a series of posts on the why and how of multicultural marketing. The first on why you should “do” multicultural marketing is fine reading. Anne Brumbaugh is our esteemed guest contributor. Anne knows multicultural marketing and she’d be delighted to work with you. Read on for some very instructive information.
Start on the right foot.
Once you’ve come to the realization that you need to consider multicultural marketing – targeting different consumer segments on the basis of ethnic, racial, or cultural group membership – you need to figure out how to get ready to do it. If you want to do a mediocre job, simply read an oversimplified demographic profile of your target group on the internet, reinforce marketing stereotypes that may or may not hold true for the group, replace a few white characters in your ads with members of that group, and translate directly your existing communications into their language
On the other hand, if you want to know how to do a really good job – one that resonates with your subcultural target and has a positive ROI – you need to do a little background work first. Here are five things to do as you consider how you are going to do multicultural marketing.
How #1: Assume nothing, research everything.
As members of the dominant culture, we white Anglos have a difficult time knowing if, when, and how the beliefs, values, and behaviors of other cultural groups differ from ours. (The converse is not so, but that’s for another post.) We may erroneously assume that members of another culture behave just like we do, or that they behave completely differently from how we do. Successful multicultural marketing starts by checking both types of assumptions at the door. Research, particularly qualitative, is absolutely essential for understanding the consumer beliefs about, motivations toward, uses of, and propensity for different product categories and brands among diverse cultural segments of which we are not members.
How #2: Learn the culture of your target.
Not learn about the culture of your target market, learn the culture itself. Read the literature of your target – be sure to include a biography or two, fiction, and non-fiction of different historical periods. Take a history, sociology, or anthropology course about your target to learn the culture’s ethos – what makes its people tick. Identify what popular media your target consumes (television shows, online content, magazines, radio, news, etc.) and consume them yourself to learn what current issues within the community are. You’re doing all this not to learn how to market to them per se, but rather to understand their values and beliefs (see How #1 above).
How #3: Diversify your capabilities.
Marketing to diverse consumers requires a diversity of thought, and you get this diversity of thought from having diverse employees. That doesn’t necessarily mean that if you would like to target subcultural segments X, Y, and Z, you have to have employees from subcultural segments X, Y, and Z (though it doesn’t hurt). It does mean, however, that you have to have different types of people in your firm with a diversity of experiences and backgrounds so that they can question assumptions (see How #1), tap into a broad network of connections and resources that a narrow employee base might not have, and generate more, better ideas than a homogenous group could.
How #4. Understand diversity within diversity.
There is substantial heterogeneity within any segment, and failure to acknowledge it could be disastrous. An African American mom with three kids and a minivan is probably more like her white soccer mom counterpart than she is like a black Caribbean hip hop artist when it comes to purchasing an SUV, and a fifteen year old Hispanic boy is probably more like that same hip hop artist than he is like his own Mexican grandfather when it comes to choosing clothing. Individuals in ethnoracial subcultures differ substantially with regard to how much they identify with their subcultural groups, and these differences influence how they respond to targeted marketing efforts.
How #5: Commit money and talent.
Too often when firms decided to target a particular cultural subsegment, they name someone within their organization of that same subsegment to lead the effort (without regard to his marketing acumen), fund the effort from ad hoc sources (without regard to how much money it will require), and expect immediate results (without regard to how long it will take). Though firms seem reluctant to redeploy their best assets on cultivating a new, unknown, smaller, riskier subsegment than they are used to, successful multicultural marketing requires that they do so. If you’re not going to commit these resources to the effort, you may not yet be ready for multicultural marketing.
Anne M. Brumbaugh is the founder and owner of Anne Brumbaugh Marketing, a marketing consultancy in Charleston, SC, specializing in marketing research, marketplace diversity, and marketing analysis and planning. Dr. Brumbaugh is also an Associate Professor of Marketing at the School of Business, College of Charleston, and holds an MBA with a specialization in marketing and a PhD in business and consumer behavior.