In 2021, professional marketers cannot afford to ignore consumer trends around multicultural and diverse marketing. Although many leaders and communication professionals used to talk about multicultural marketing as “nice to have,” it is now a business imperative: one with absolutely enormous potential to expand and deepen your market reach. Yet, the vast majority of brands are still not tapping into its benefits, and therefore risk falling farther and farther behind.
What is multicultural marketing, and how do you incorporate it into your thinking as a marketer?
Simply put, multicultural marketing means reviewing and revising your brand message for underrepresented populations outside of the general market. For the best examples, look to Nike, Walmart or P&G: three companies that are currently crushing the creative game with bold multicultural campaigns.
If you want to learn more about how to follow in their footsteps, I highly recommend my team’s on-demand webinar, Tackling Multicultural Marketing Like a Pro. In it, we discuss how to make real changes to your marketing that will authentically reach multicultural consumers and what you can do to fix potential messaging mistakes.
Why is multicultural marketing now more urgent than ever?
Within the world of digital marketing, some of the smartest people I know are already arguing that multicultural is the new general market. Considering that multicultural identities now comprise 40% of the U.S. population, I am inclined to believe them. When considering the potential for strong multicultural marketing campaigns, I keep these two statistics at the center of mind.
(1) By 2044, America is set to be a multicultural majority, with no one race or ethnicity comprising more than 50% of the population, and
(2) America’s diverse populations wield $3.2 trillion in spending power.
Obviously, this form of marketing isn’t new. In fact, it has been nearly a decade since Walmart rocked the marketing world by announcing that they would double their multicultural marketing budget because they believed that 100% of sales growth would come from multicultural markets. Read that again: 100% of growth.
The key here is to understand that multicultural marketing isn’t just changing your imagery. It means shifting your messaging and, potentially, your marketing strategies for greater impact within multicultural communities. With that in mind, here is my best advice for expanding your reach through diverse marketing.
- Consider and craft an authentic brand message. Don’t try to mold your existing campaigns so they will resonate with new demographics. Instead, start from scratch to identify your target market’s motivators, hopes, frustrations and pain points, then build your message from the bottom up to be sure it serves the community you’re after.
- Audit your existing online presence. I promise you that prospective customers, employees, partners and clients are looking over every one of your digital platforms. Critically examine your website, social media, and online presence to see how well each platform is proving your organization’s commitment to diversity. Are you showing diverse people and faces? Are you broadcasting diverse voices? Remember, diversity means more than race, ethnicity, and gender. How can you increase your representation of diverse and marginalized identities?
- Don’t rely on stereotypes. Don’t make assumptions. If you want to create a powerful message, you absolutely have to do your research about the communities you are trying to reach. Study what makes them who they are, and gather market data about their wants and needs. Bolster your data with third-party research and/or focus groups. Ideally, you will have a multicultural team or marketing partner to help you craft an authentic message, but what do you do if your team is not diverse?
- Use Google Analytics for demographic research. Data-driven insights will help you create realistic and sustainable strategies that resonate with different cultural groups. Look to understand which messages are most powerful and which platforms for that message see the most engagement.
- Broaden the team that reviews your work to include people from diverse backgrounds. Gather as much external feedback as you can. Ask for help from culturally diverse employees in other departments, business partners and experts in that space. Have them review campaign mock-ups while they’re still in ideation. You can also bring in an outside review team to ensure that your messaging resonates with your target audience. Ample and repeated testing will help you avoid potential blunders.
It’s easy to find dozens of examples of how brands have alienated and offended consumers with tone-deaf marketing campaigns. Dove’s “normal to dark” skin lotion, Dolce & Gabbana’s noodle ad and Heineken’s “Lighter is Better” commercial show the lasting brand damage of insensitive marketing.
You can avoid the same missteps by investing in research, embracing analytics, diversifying your team and asking for an abundance of feedback.
About the Author
Donald Thompson is a thought leader and expert on diverse messaging and inclusive communication. He is CEO of Walk West, an award-winning digital marketing agency, and co-founder and CEO of The Diversity Movement, a data-driven, strategic DEI partner. To learn more, visit donaldthompson.com.