Multicultural consumers represent about 40% of the U.S. population, with a combined buying power of $4 trillion. Yet ad spend targeted to multicultural groups including Latinx, Asian, and Black consumers only accounts for 5% of marketing budgets, according to a 2019 report from Nielsen.
The gap in spend can be attributed to a myriad of factors. Some marketers have opted to utilize a total market approach, which is intended to reach all consumers across general and ethnic markets. Others shy away from multicultural marketing as it is deemed to be “sensitive.” Marketers know that if they get the cultural nuances wrong in their ad campaigns, they will be met with fierce backlash on social media.
However, the fear of social backlash should not be a deterrent to speaking to these audiences. Instead, it should serve as a driving force to developing authentic and sustainable connections. Here are three elements advertisers should consider before developing their next campaign.
Multicultural Marketing: Representation Matters
One of the first steps brands can take is ensuring that there’s proper representation when developing multicultural campaigns. This is more than just representation in a TV commercial or print ad—take a look at your project team and even C-suite executives. I’ve often wondered how many boardrooms have persons of color in them helping to inform and make campaign decisions, because some mistakes are so blatant that the only logical answer is “not many.”
The notion of representation is a simple one, but one in which there is still a large gap to fill. In fact, 85% of the advertising, communications, and marketing workforce is made up of white professionals. As a media strategist, I have often sat in rooms where I was the only Black person and, in many instances, the only person of color.
On the few occasions when the question of multicultural marketing came up, I was deemed the subject matter expert by default. While I was happy to contribute, how can one person be the subject matter expert on an entire culture—especially when there are so many subcultures within it? Representation is more than just one person or placing a racially ambiguous person in an ad—it should be woven throughout the entire organizational structure.
Multicultural Marketing: Starts at the Groundfloor
This brings me to perhaps the most crucial point. To have a successful multicultural campaign, diversity, equity, and inclusion must be built into the company’s ethos. It should be more than a sentence that gets lost within an employee handbook. It should be evident in the company’s practices, values, and culture.
When inclusivity is built into a company’s ethos, the change it brings about is unmatched. Take for example, Fenty Beauty. Since its inception, founder Rihanna’s vision was “Beauty for All” so that people everywhere would be included. To emphasize inclusion, Fenty Beauty launched with 40 different shades of foundation for the lightest skin to the darkest.
The success of Fenty’s multicultural practice jolted the beauty industry and caused a seismic shift in the landscape. Other beauty brands now seek to be more inclusive in their product offerings and campaigns—showing that Fenty’s simple yet revolutionary brand ethos, “Beauty for All,” is making waves in the industry and sparking long sought-after change for consumers.
Multicultural Marketing: Authenticity is Everything
When developing multicultural campaigns, there must be an authentic intention behind every act. Marketers should consider the long-term connections they are looking to forge with multicultural audiences. They should seek to understand the cultural nuances that makes each audience unique. For example, instead of solely transcribing ads from English to Spanish, marketers should also develop in-culture ads—meaning that it encompasses cultural nuances.
Multicultural initiatives should be consistent, continuous, and should not be done on a one-off basis. It cannot just be celebrated and acknowledged when it is convenient, trending, or relevant based on current events. This concept extends beyond race to other underrepresented audiences such as the LGBTQ community. When June comes to an end, will these same marketers support Pride initiatives? What happens when Black Lives Matter is no longer trending on social media? When the dust settles, will these companies still care about the causes affecting minority communities?
One of the most famous brands that walks the talk is Nike. Nike stands boldly at the forefront of social change and is unapologetic about its values. One can see their commitment to social change in the athletes they endorse, their commercials, the community programs they support, etc. Whether it’s Colin Kaepernick’s ad for Black Lives Matter, Serena Williams for women’s equality, or Ibtihaj Muhammad for support of all faiths—Nike stands behind its values even when it’s unpopular.
Consumers are demanding more from companies—and this is especially true in the multicultural market. With the estimated continued population growth among multicultural audiences, it is more important than ever that marketers be intentional in cultivating authentic relationships with these audiences to help future proof their businesses.
Do you know of any companies that have crushed the multicultural marketing game? Or ones that have famously missed the mark? Share with us on Twitter.