Because the best marketers deserve great content.
What’s Your Multi-cultural Brand Strategy as U.S. Demographics Shift?
According to the Census Bureau, the United States is fast approaching a demographic tipping point in which today’s cultural majority will soon become the minority.
By 2043, non-Hispanic whites will no longer represent more than half of the U.S. population, and by 2060, nearly one-third of U.S. residents will be Hispanic—up from one in six today. Moreover, since 2010, Asian Americans have been the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in the country.
Brands that embrace this transition with a multi-cultural brand strategy will have a long-term competitive advantage. By prioritizing demographic changes, organizations have a real opportunity to become frontrunners among a new customer base.
“The fact that most businesses have been slow to act on this demographic shift has made a huge opportunity even greater,” says author and business consultant Glenn Llopis. “Those that take the lead now will find themselves with an unprecedented competitive advantage and a highly loyal consumer base—particularly with Hispanics—that others will find difficult if not impossible to dislodge.”
What’s important for brand managers to keep in mind is that the future is already here. Demographic shifts are continuous, which means that businesses need to be prepared for markets that are constantly evolving.
The big question, however, is what a multicultural marketing strategy should entail. How can brands embrace this core value into their overarching strategy and daily operations? Should marketers focus on differentiators or points of connection between demographic segments?
Here’s what brands should keep in mind when navigating these mission-critical questions.
1. Loyalty, engagement, and brand affinity will emerge from understanding
A recent report from Nielsen points out that multicultural consumers have two advantages over non-Hispanic whites: they’re younger and are living longer. An upfront investment in multicultural campaigns can pay off, then, because they can be your customers for a longer period of time.
That’s why brands like Procter & Gamble (P&G) strive to establish customer bonds that are lasting and deep. Rather than creating a general market strategy, the CPG leader pays attention to the nuances, needs, and perceptions of of each cultural segment.
In 2009, for instance, P&G ran a series of ads for Gain, a popular laundry detergent. Both ads featured ‘dry’ and ‘self-deprecating’ humor. The general-market ad sees a woman quickly sniffing her neighbor’s blouse on a clothesline. The Hispanic market adaptation is more slapstick, with the woman spotting her neighbor taking a deep whiff of her freshly laundered underwear.
“If you try to adapt a spot [like the first one] among Hispanic consumers, they wouldn’t get it at all,” said Alain Groenendaal, president and CEO of Wing, an agency that has worked with P&G to launch its multicultural efforts—in an article for AdWeek. “And vice versa, if you ran the Hispanic ad in the general market, consumers would think it’s over the top.”
While the P&G example dates back to 2010, the implications are timeless. The idea of there being a mainstream is becoming increasingly obsolete, with brands crafting new strategies through deep, empathetic relationships with their target markets. This learning process will be critical to the development lasting customer relationships, loyalty, and engagement.
2. Small details can influence perceptions in a big way
Nielsen points out that members of the growing multicultural mainstream are more than just shoppers—they’re setting trends, starting families, and maintaining their cultural heritage. Above all, these young consumers are creating a ‘mix and match’ generation that incorporates a blend of values, perspectives, and attitudes.
That’s why the subtleties count.
Think back to the Cheerios “Gracie” ad from the 2014 Super Bowl, which features a multicultural family and adorable little girl. That same Super Bowl featured an ad from Coca-Cola in which “America the Beautiful” was sung in different languages by immigrants.
Multiculturalism has made its way into the everyday lives of mainstream Americans, and one of the most important strategic decisions that brands can make is to acknowledge this state of being.
Be thoughtful about the images you’re choosing and the way that you’re depicting life in the U.S. Outsmart your implicit and explicit assumptions about what a typical family does or what’s “American.”
As Laurel Wentz of AdAge points out, “Today’s multicultural population is increasingly born in the U.S. rather than abroad.”
3. Your brand’s story should still be told consistently
According to Nielsen, multicultural consumers are doing two things: establishing the new mainstream while staying close to their cultural heritages. These perspectives allow them to “see themselves as part of the new mainstream, allowing them to mix and match endless choices and products to suit their effortless duality in lifestyles and tastes.”
That’s why Toyota has replaced its multicultural marketing team with what the brand calls a “total-market strategy,” which looks to use messaging and values that describe its customer base as one cohesive group, even as it uses cultural cues to acknowledge different cultures. It’s a tactic that can help ensure that your brand identity is consistent across multiple demographics.
Through the creation of a program called T2, Toyota has integrated its previously separate multicultural marketing arms. Toyota’s groups and agencies — Saatchi & Saatchi LA, Burrell Communications, Conill, InterTrend Communications and Zenith Optimedi — are operating as equals in collaborating on “one brief, one set of directions, and one target.”
The goal of this program is to combine the best of two worlds: deep consumer connections with general appeal. Behind this ambitious vision is a clear process that encourages collaboration at the ideation stage. Rather than working separately, groups and agencies—like Saatchi & Saatchi LA, Burrell Communications, Conill, InterTrend Communications and Zenith Optimedi—are operating in tandem towards a unified brand.
When it comes to crafting a successful multicultural marketing strategy, there is no silver bullet. Brand marketers are exploring this new terrain for the first time, together. But remember there’s a lot to gain by recognizing the way demographics and culture are changing.