OP-ED: Multicultural efforts require company-wide involvement

The multicultural marketing and communications space is no longer one of pilot programs and once-a-year Cinco de Mayo campaigns. Today, organizations are creating separate multicultural departments; allocating new multicultural marketing budget lines; setting measurable goals for each segment within several layers of the organization; and communicating to their many niche audiences in language and in culture. This integrated approach allows these organizations to develop core products that meet the needs of a "new America" and is rendering impressive returns.

The multicultural marketing and communications space is no longer one of pilot programs and once-a-year Cinco de Mayo campaigns. Today, organizations are creating separate multicultural departments; allocating new multicultural marketing budget lines; setting measurable goals for each segment within several layers of the organization; and communicating to their many niche audiences in language and in culture. This integrated approach allows these organizations to develop core products that meet the needs of a "new America" and is rendering impressive returns.

Statistics released in 2002 were catalysts for greater multidimensional cause-related marketing, advertising, communications, and PR strategies within many organizations.

According to the Census Bureau, the ethnic totals of the US' population are: 12% African Americans; 13% Latinos; 4% Asian and Pacific Islanders. According to Georgia University's Selig Center for Economic Growth, ethnic buying power will increase between 1990-2007 by 315% among Hispanics, 287% among Asians, and 170% among African Americans.

Companies that focus solely on one audience when creating products are missing enormous opportunity. Furthermore, companies that do not incorporate a multicultural marketing and PR campaign to communicate these products and services to their many niche audiences will miss even larger opportunities. To that end, many companies offer different services to help organizations reach these influential audiences, both through the media and direct to consumers.

The most effective communications initiatives are those generated as part of a larger integrated campaign in which all of an organization's divisions, business units, and departments are aligned on a national and local level to maintain visibility within the multicultural landscape.

Two companies that use an integrated approach are Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and Yahoo en Español. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, a subsidiary of Wells Fargo & Company, launched its Emerging Markets division in 1997 to help increase home ownership among minority families and low- and moderate-income borrowers. "This division creates, implements, and drives corporate-wide initiatives to Asian, African-American, Hispanic, American-Indian, and first-time homebuyers," said Hillary Sterling, communications consultant for the Emerging Markets department. "At Wells Fargo, multiple divisions are measurably responsible for driving and supporting Emerging Markets initiatives. It is not the responsibility of just one department or unit."

One of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage's greatest efforts is their Hispanic Customer Service Center in Las Cruces, NM, which provides specialized services to Spanish-speaking homebuyers in 16 states. "These centers go far beyond the translating of marketing materials or hiring of bilingual salespeople," said Stuart Kanchuger, Latino/Hispanic segment manager for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. In addition, Wells Fargo continues its commitment to opening branches in ethnic low-income communities and offering multilingual homebuyer education classes around the country.

Yahoo en Español celebrated its fifth anniversary in 2003 and the Yahoo network was the top online destination for US Hispanics at the end of 2003, according to ComScore Media Metrix. In addition, 2003 was the best year for sales, marketing, product launches, customer service, and overall growth for Yahoo en Español. "The secret ingredient for this success is alignment of strategies company-wide," said David Duckenfield, Yahoo en Español's senior communications manager.

Yahoo en Español is a "hispanized" site with multidimensional strategies supporting it. Examples of innovative campaigns executed last year were "La Musica en Yahoo en Español," their newest music offering which integrates music-related news, content, and promotions, and Launchcast, the internet radio featuring 40 pre-programmed stations. Advertising, marketing, and Yahoo's "buzz marketing" team all collectively work towards growing and supporting the development of Yahoo en Español.

A 360-degree corporate-wide integrated multicultural plan is the way to go to sustain growth. Make sure you have senior-level buy-in at the very start and know whom all your niche market competitors are. Don't try to sponsor your way to success. Research your segment audience and design products and services that meet their specific needs. Develop a culturally relevant marketing and communications program that targets the key niche media, cultural ambassadors, and consumers in this niche market. Build relationships with these audiences by communicating with them in language and in culture. Choose established, well-known, and reliable partners who understand the needs of these niche markets. And continually measure the results of your program and refine it regularly as your niche audiences' needs change.

  • Gina Amaro is the director of multicultural and international markets for PR Newswire.

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