Laying out the business case for target marketing in tough times

A year ago, not many people would have thought that our economy would be where it is right now. The downturn in the economic tide has caused almost everyone to reconsider their spending habits.

A year ago, not many people would have thought that our economy would be where it is right now. The downturn in the economic tide has caused almost everyone to reconsider their spending habits. As companies' dollars are shrinking and budgets are tightening, we'd all be wise to put our money where we can see growth and get the best return on our investment.
 
One segment brimming with growth is multicultural consumers. According to the US Census Bureau, by 2050, multicultural ethnic groups will represent 50% of the population. Hispanics will represent 103 million; African Americans 51 million; and Asians 33 million. For Hispanics and Asians, that's over double their numbers today.
 
The sheer numbers and growth of multicultural consumer groups is enough to warrant a concerted target marketing approach. And it's much more than just taking general market strategies and reaching out to multicultural ethnic groups with them. It means that general marketing strategies will increasingly need to speak to a host of multicultural groups in credible and meaningful ways. Well-targeted and specifically developed campaigns to diverse audiences that may have been shunned in the past will fare better than the shotgun approach we still see employed by some companies today.
 
Another growth area shown by the US Census is the number of Hispanic- and African-American households from 1997 to 2007 with incomes exceeding $100,000. During that period, their incomes rose 102% and 57%, respectively, compared to a 35% increase for the total population. That shows a rise in affluence and buying power. Companies with premium products targeting diverse affluent groups will also have opportunities to benefit from their growth if they market appropriately.
 
Additionally, by 2050, the Caucasian and Hispanic youth population will be equal in size (32.6 million and 32.7 million, respectively). This has applications for those doing youth marketing. Tapping into this market in a relevant and authentic way will help build consumer loyalty, usage of products, and strengthen companies' ability to continue to market to future generations of increasing ethnically diverse youth.
 
For over two decades, I've tracked the target marketing approach and have found that it can be a winning proposition for those companies that do it right. So, during this tough economy, you need to employ target marketing to the ever-increasing multicultural ethnic segment. If you do, when the country comes out of the current recession and your company's market share is measured, you may very well reap the benefits and see a solid return on your investment in this space.
 
Lori George Billingsley is director of community and multicultural communications for Coca-Cola North America. She can be reached at lbillingsley@na.ko.com.

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