What do marketers understand about the influence of a diverse demographic that became apparent in the last election?

Multicultural marketing is not a one-message-fits-all strategy - there are segments and in some cases sub-segments within each ethnic group, so look to target and then develop outreach that is relevant to that specific culture.


Jimmy Lee , SVP, marketing and communications, BBCN Bank

Lee McDuffey, CEO, Diversity Search

Michael Olguin, President, Formulatin, and president, Formula PR

Maria Rodriguez, President, Vanguard Communications

Lisa Skriloff, President, Multicultural Marketing Resources

Jimmy Lee, SVP, marketing and communications, BBCN Bank
There has been a growing influence of Asian Americans and diverse consumers in recent years in terms of demographics, and as customers with high disposable incomes.

With the bulk of BBCN's business coming from the Asian-American community we know that, based on the 2010 census, the Asian population in the US grew fastest during the past decade. The community grew by 43%, and 49 out of 50 states experienced double-digit percentage growth, with some increasing by triple digits.

As marketers, we know diverse consumers are, and have been, spending money. Even though Asians only represent 5% of the population, the buying power of the community exceeds $700 billion, a number that is estimated to grow to $1 trillion by 2017. If Asian Americans were a country, by sheer buying power, they would be among the top 20 leading economies in the world.

The great secret political parties have be-gun to figure out, but we as marketers in this niche segment have known, is that diverse communities are very loyal to brands, and that may also translate politically to parties they feel are speaking to them and listening to their communities' interests.

In recent elections, we've seen an increasing number of candidates making an effort to speak and visit our diverse communities. As a marketer or political party, it may not be enough to just convey your party platform or brand during elections, but [you also need] to engage with diverse consumers on a consistent and regular basis.

Lee McDuffey, CEO, Diversity Search
Marketers have figured out that you can persuade people by talking to them, unlike many politicians who feel they must talk at you. But political parties now realize they tactically need not just younger and better candidates, but more diversity at all levels.

Brand marketers utilize target segmentation by accumulating prospective markets into groups with similar needs that might respond to similar marketing efforts or campaigns. The use of target segmentation allows businesses to reach many groups and a diversity of customers with different needs.

Brand marketers have become very in-formed. They devote sufficient time and resources to truly understand the vast opportunities that exist in growing ethnic and multicultural markets. Immersing oneself in the culture, being in the communities where these consumers live and work, and seeing the world from their vantage point will make corporate marketers even better at connecting with these customers.

Once they see the opportunities and the potential benefits, these marketers often become multicultural evangelists. In this respect, politicians should have learned how effective these new practices have become.

Equally important is that brand marketers find a champion to get groups and organizations to commit to diversity and share key learnings. The best way to keep ethnic and multicultural marketing top of mind is to have an internal champion in the C-suite. Without that support, ethnic and multicultural marketing won't be viewed as a business priority by employees or externally by key community, media, and civic influentials.

Michael Olguin, president, Formulatin, and president, Formula PR
Though marketers are good at understanding demographics and getting better at interpreting psychographics, they clearly have been putting a concerted effort to-ward understanding how to build marketing programs that speak directly to multicultural audiences. As the most recent election made clear, both political parties could have learned a lot from marketers.

There are three main areas that both parties could have leveraged to resonate with multicultural audiences:

Cultural relevance. A successful brand knows that to be important to different consumer groups, you must be relevant. This is especially true within the multicultural arena, where heritage plays such a key role in beliefs, interests, and loyalties.

Thus, both parties should consider how their political platform could most relate to multicultural consumers and develop messaging and programs around it.

Emotional connection. Passion brands are built upon developing an emotional connection between a brand and its target audience. If political parties focused strategies on understanding what multicultural consumers really care about, they would be more likely to get those customers to feel an attachment that goes beyond features and benefits.

Transparency. History has not been particularly good to multicultural consumers, thus, they are naturally hesitant to automatically agree or believe in what is being told to them. As such, both political parties must take a hardline approach on being completely transparent with them; other- wise, these consumers will feel like they are being used for political gain.

Like marketing, politics is very much centered on the ability to drive your target audience to take notice, get into the consideration set, and, most importantly, drive a call to action. In the case of marketing, this goal is to purchase a product or service. In politics, it is to have people believe what you believe, which is not much different.

Maria Rodriguez, president, Vanguard Communications
Each year, the number of US minority groups increases, as do the diverse perspectives among them. Simply put, diversity in itself is diverse. It is a mistake to assume that a traditionally described minority group - Asian Americans, for example - will respond to messages and ideas as one homogeneous block. Each audience slice represents a different set of cultural beliefs, historical backgrounds, geographical considerations, and current living circumstances.

In a climate where elections are decided by hundreds of votes, it's critical to move beyond broad assumptions to truly understand the needs and desires of every audience segment. This segmentation is a marketer's golden rule. It's how we learn what's important and what motivates action.

The experiences that shape individual cultural perspectives also shape political opinions. Understanding, respecting, and genuinely responding to these differences through words and actions is what it takes to educate and persuade voters. There are no longer fringe communities - groups that are often dismissed by politicians as being outside the norm.

People living in poverty, LGBT individuals, urban Native Americans, and American-born Hispanics are just a few examples of powerful minority forces that, with a strong message, can persuade others to vote in their favor on a certain subject. Marketing careers live and die by the ability to analyze and segment audiences and provide messages and products that respond to their individual necessities and desires - and keeping that research current is key.

Marketers, as well as politicians, who act on dated assumptions about our nation's diversity will find themselves quickly looking for a new place of employment.

Lisa Skriloff, president, Multicultural Marketing Resources
The election was a timely hook that drew a spotlight on the diverse population in the country, but successful marketers more interested in ROI than politics or even political correctness have long been aware of the importance of the multicultural consumer to their bottom lines.

The decennial census results, first in 1980, then 1990, 2000, and 2010 have under-scored this point: The combined population of Hispanics, African Americans, and Asian Americans, at 36% today with the voting power in numbers to affect an election, will cross the 50% threshold by 2050. By then, the so-called minorities will be the majority, a milestone already reached in five US states, including California.

But it is a different number entirely - one with a dollar sign in front of it - that marketers care about. According to the annual minority buying power report from the Selig Center for Economic Growth, the combined buying power of these consumers will rise to $3.6 trillion in 2015.

My first position in New York City was at Caballero Spanish Radio where, as editor of Hispanic Age newsletter, my October 1982 issue listed these forward-thinking marketers - Sears, McDonald's, Procter & Gamble, and Anheuser Busch - among the top advertisers in the Hispanic market.

Not surprisingly these same names [are still among] the largest advertisers in Hispanic media. Working long term to build relationships with these consumers is the secret to earning their business.

With larger households, a faster growth rate, multi-generational families, the ethnic market is the ideal consumer today. And not just today - with 47% of US children under the age of 5 a minority, the multicultural population is our future.

The Takeaway
  • Multicultural marketing is not a one-message-fits-all strategy - there are segments and in some cases sub-segments within each ethnic group, so look to target and then develop outreach that is relevant to that specific culture
  • There are no fringe multicultural communities that can be ignored - several diverse cultures within the US show incredible brand loyalty. Targeting them early can drive awareness and brand affinity that extends across generations, even as that group grows in population and economic clout
  • Be inclusive - using references such as "us versus them" or "the 47%" not only makes for horrible politics, but also bad marketing

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