Master Class: What are the most crucial factors to effectively reach multicultural youth?

As current influencers and future consumers, multicultural youth have become vital to marketers. It's estimated that nearly 45% of all children under the age of five are multicultural.


Carla Dodds

Director of multicultural marketing, Wal-Mart

Kim Hunter

Founder and president, Lagrant Communications

Rudy Rodriguez

Director of multicultural marketing, General Mills

Manny Ruiz

Co-publisher, Hispanic PR Blog and PapiBlogger; organizer, Hispanic PR & Social Media Conference

Rashada Whitehead

MD and SVP, Flowers Communications Group

As current influencers and future consumers, multicultural youth have become vital to marketers. It's estimated that nearly 45% of all children under the age of five are multicultural. Our primary target is mom, but children have great influence on purchasing decisions in multicultural households.

As marketers seek to reach this group, some key tactics or factors rise to the forefront.

Go digital and online. Young multicultural consumers actively take part in the thriving digital era. We must reach this tech-savvy audience with the right messages, but also via the media they prefer - popular social networking portals such as Facebook or MySpace, mobile marketing campaigns, interactive portals offering music/video downloads, and increasingly popular gaming options.

Consider their bicultural nature. Today, nearly 52% of all US-born children have at least one foreign-born parent. Being bicultural and bilingual is cool - it's embraced. Hispanic children will likely continue to be one of the nation's fastest-growing populations, expected to rise to 24 million by 2025. Communicating and marketing in Spanish will continue to be fundamental for Hispanic market outreach, but there will be a stronger emphasis on "in-culture" communication to younger Latinos, regardless if it is in Spanish or English.

Bilingualism. This has become part of the acceptable language in media channels that target the younger acculturated Latino, such as MTV Tr3s, Universal's mun2 network, and the music network LATV. Unlike prior generations, today's multicultural youth are open to embracing its uniqueness, as well as the differences of others. Marketers must look for ways to build brand loyalty among a group that is poised to be their future key target.

Carla Dodds, director of multicultural marketing, Wal-Mart US

As companies look to social media to reach diverse audiences in new ways, it is imperative to cover all the bases, including multicultural youth. Things to consider:

Celebrate niche ethnic groups. Different ethnic subgroups have different celebrations. For example, Brazilian youth are very excited to celebrate Carnaval. Developing events and giveaways during this time would maximize outreach efforts to this subgroup.

Develop message materials for multiple platforms. Multicultural youth access information through a wide variety of devices, including laptops, cell phones, and various mobile devices. Consider developing mobile ads and creating widgets to make it easier for your consumer to receive your message. Also, recognize where multicultural audiences like to interact. A 2008 University of California, Berkeley School of Information study indicated that black and Hispanic audiences were more likely to populate MySpace, while Asian/Pacific Islanders were more likely to populate Facebook. These preferences help shape the way messages are designed for different audiences on different networks.

Understand the changing social media landscape. Multicultural youth are heavy users of social media. For example, 36% of English-preferred Latinos access social media at least twice a month, more times than any other group. It is vital to understand the changing landscape, as well as the focus of different social media networks.

Multicultural outreach goes beyond language. Companies using slang do not impress multicultural youth. It is crucial to assess the cultural wants and needs of the audience. Coca-Cola for example, developed a contest for multicultural youth where they had the opportunity to create a film featuring R&B star Monica and received a five-day workshop on filmmaking skills. The contest generated excitement and provided an educational component to participants.


Kim Hunter, founder and president, Lagrant Communications

The biggest myth I come across among research companies and some marketers is that today's youth population is color blind. I don't buy it. I believe today's youth is more accepting of diversity, while at the same time wanting to celebrate their - and others' - cultural heritage and pride. 

But how do you get started if you have to reach every unique culture? It begins with strong consumer insights. For example, a little research will tell you that today's youth often share a common experience about living in two worlds: one world of shared values and experiences at work/school, the other in a distinct cultural community with family and friends.

One of the best youth marketers that understands this segment is McDonald's, which leads with multicultural insights to reach all consumers. And it engages in unique marketing activation, including strong use of PR and events targeted at black, Asian, and Latino youth. If you visit its website, you will find unique content and events ranging from celebrations of the Asian Lunar New Year, The Essence Music Festival, and Latino music events. McDonald's isn't trying to portray all youth in the same way, but rather celebrate the unique aspects of each culture.

It can be overwhelming, so if you start with one target you can build your expertise over time. One way to begin is to leverage social marketing. Today's multicultural youth are leading online with social media. Building a relationship through social media can help you both understand your target and deliver a relevant and customized message. Check out one of my favorite sites for getting inspiration on Latino youth: My Latino Voice.  


Rudy Rodriguez, multicultural marketing director, General Mills

You don't need to see the upcoming Census results to grasp the importance of marketing to Hispanic, black, and Asian-American youth.

Start by considering a multifaceted approach that simultaneously targets youth and their families. Truly great marketers, such as McDonald's, know the way to create the deepest connections is through direct outreach to youth and through their families and communities.

At this point, social and mobile media strategies come into play. An abundance of research shows that multicultural youth are voracious users of social and mobile media. If you don't believe this, think about why Hispanic market-leading telecoms companies such as Sprint Nextel focus so much on marketing their family plans.

Sports and music-infused marketing programs are great forums in which to target multicultural youth. They are especially fruitful with campaigns targeting His- panic and black audiences. (As much as I hate to admit it because it seems like a cliché, soccer-related programs are as close to sure-fire as you can get when reaching Latino youth/families.)

It is vital to remember that culture is more important than language. If your program includes youth and family, you may need a bilingual approach. However, in most cases where your lone focus might be kids, an English-only, culturally relevant program might work just fine.

Tapping into aspirational themes is always a good tactic. For many complicated reasons that vary from culture to culture, Hispanic, black, and Asian-American youth are known to respond well to messaging campaigns that are aspirational in nature.

With all this, remember: one multicultural size doesn't fit all. Even though I've written here about common themes/concepts that resonate across diverse cultures, be sure to tailor each campaign to the different audiences.


Manny Ruiz, co-publisher of the Hispanic PR Blog and PapiBlogger, organizer of the annual Hispanic PR & Social Media Conference

With so much consumer landscape to cover for marketers and PR pros targeting the younger multicultural generation, it is critical to find common ground. Consider the following to win the hearts of these important emerging markets.

Depth. Many multicultural Americans have cited having several worlds within their worlds. For the younger generation, this holds true. Whether it's language, heritage, spirituality, or other cultural nuances, the reality is marketers and communicators should get beyond simply translating words or incorporating cool music to make a connection. Show respect with messages that matter.

Mobility. Keep it moving, because they do. Research reveals Hispanics' penetration of wireless services is 78% by age 17. And black audiences are more likely than any other group to use Twitter, outpacing the general market 26% to 19%. Multicultural youths are in many places in a short time and want to see, touch, taste, feel, and hear to form their opinions. This is why social media, live events, and various consumer engagement activities that reach multiple touchpoints often succeed.

Dialogue. The younger multicultural generation collectively has rich insight and isn't reluctant to share it. Two-way conversation is a must and honesty is still the best policy. Brands interested in "putting a toe in the water" to engage these audiences should think hard about what that means. You're either in or out. If dialogue has no substance, multicultural youth is going to quickly disconnect, defriend, walk away, or block you out.


Rashada Whitehead, MD and SVP, Flowers Communications Group The Takeaway

Marketers must go beyond bilingual efforts and focus on targeted touchpoints for various multicultural youth groups

Social media, mobile, and interactive gaming platforms can be especially effective with multicultural youth, as they are avid users of digital tools

Music and sports messaging has proven to resonate strongly with this specific audience

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