Multicultural marketing has become mainstream objective

In this issue, we feature five companies that have made multicultural inclusion part of the foundation of their marketing efforts.

In this issue, we feature five companies that have made multicultural inclusion part of the foundation of their marketing efforts. Certainly, these aren't the only five to have done a good job, but those profiled have taken the process beyond a single campaign or product and, most of all, beyond the dated “ethnic consumer” concept. For them, these consumers are the mainstream consumer.

These marketing efforts ring true for consumers because the companies immerse themselves in the culture. It's not a matter of brainstorming to try and understand a customer segment, it's about gathering corporate executives around the table who share the same insights and bring experience into the room that creates an emotional connection through authentic cultural references.

As a corporation, McDonald's reflects its diverse customer base. More than 45% of its franchise operators are women or people of color, including African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics.

Harley-Davidson's outreach to the Latino consumer has been so effective that it has created its own community of Harlistas, a term created 50 years ago in Latin America for a Harley-Davidson rider of Latino descent. The company celebrated its strong roots in the Hispanic community with a May documentary that debuted on Telemundo focusing on life as a Harlista.

There are a number of success stories in multicultural marketing, but as a whole, when comparing the buying power of customers from different backgrounds, you must wonder if enough is being done to speak to these very powerful audiences.

According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, over the past decade the buying power of Hispanics has risen 108%, compared to 60% for African Americans and slower growth for the majority market at 49%.

In the decade ahead, “multicultural” had better mean just that. Much has been made of Hispanic- and African-American consumers, but Asian Americans and Muslims are a growing force. Despite making up a smaller percentage of the population than Hispanics, Asians' buying power rose 98% in the past decade as they have a higher household income than Hispanics. According to market research firm Zogby International, about 7 million American Muslims live in the US with an estimated buying power of $170 billion.

Multicultural consumers are no longer a market segment. Diversity defines mainstream consumers today and will become a dominant force in the future. Businesses must shift resources to reflect where future growth lies and create ongoing authentic strategies that speak to the value, and the values of, a multicultural market.

Bernadette Casey is the senior editor of PRWeek. She can be contacted at

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