Targeted multicultural comms is a matter of common sense

Given our agency's focus, the topic of how multicultural communications continues to evolve isn't new.

Given our agency's focus, the topic of how multicultural communications continues to evolve isn't new. Screening it against the 2010 Census, though, brings interesting perspectives. Whereas we don't represent every culture, we have two dozen staffers from five-plus US states, as well as Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Sri Lanka, with ranging language, educational, and socioeconomic experiences.

Our small sample mirrors Census projections indicating America has gotten browner in the past decade, challenging the thought of a multicultural consumer monolith. Some stats suggest, for children aged five and under, the number of African Americans and Hispanics may eclipse 50% by 2020. This doesn't account for the significant percentage of people that opt not to be counted for various reasons.

What does this mean? Companies wanting to do business with these consumers must deliberately speak with them via their marcomms. I could provide a list of astute reasons why taking an existing campaign and translating it into Spanish or including a brown face as part of an ad alone doesn't work, but I won't.

There are brands that get it - and usually, they're in the top of their category class. It is part of their business model to lead with ethnic insights and have overarching strategies applied in relevant and often very different ways, depending on target audiences.

Yet there are brands that don't see the value in targeted communications because African Americans speak English or Hispanic and Asian Americans consume large proportions of general market media. Many opt to shift dollars from one segment and reallocate them across all multicultural efforts versus reassessing their total spend. This is unfortunate, considering the numbers and buying power of individual segments are compelling enough to build a case for establishing a balanced marketing communications mix that speaks meaningfully to all key audiences, without compromise.

But beyond the numbers, dollars, and industry lingo of authenticity, transparency, and other terms we heavily rely upon, it comes down to common sense: if you're going to engage in a dialogue or build relationships with consumers, know who they are, listen to their needs, and connect with them on a level beyond the superficial. Otherwise, you may have their attention today, but, in the end, they'll commit to the brand that shows it cares about them most.

Rashada Whitehead is SVP/MD, Flowers Communications Group.

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