Zuno: Ready or not, it's time to go total market

Depending on who you talk to, the term total market is either a dirty word calling for the end of multicultural marketing as we know it, or it's the beginning of everything getting folded into the general market.

Zandra Zuno
Zandra Zuno

"Total market" has been a trending topic in the advertising and marketing trades and conferences for a couple of years now. The term is broadly used to describe the greater integration between the general market and segment-specific strategies, as a result of the shifting demographics.

Depending on who you talk to, the term total market is either a dirty word calling for the end of multicultural marketing as we know it, or it’s the beginning of everything getting folded into the general market.

It’s a fact that there is a new multicultural mainstream. As an industry, we do not typically develop strategies and programs that address a diverse consumer base. For the most part, we are still planning for the general market and for multicultural markets separately. In most cases, this approach is archaic. More importantly, it’s an inhibiter of overall business and brand growth.

A brand can no longer have multiple faces. Lifestyles, cultures, and media are converging in such a way that strong brands need a unified character, one that might be bilingual or biracial, but at the very least inclusive. Brands should not be code shifting. The fact of the matter is that as the US becomes a truly multicultural nation – and it’s happening now, not tomorrow – marketing to consumer audiences needs to be seamless but also flexible.

I’m not a proponent of total market as a way to maximize cost efficiencies or as means to reduce everything into one universal truth. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Rather, total market should be about smart integration.

A few best practices to consider:

-Be intentional about bringing multicultural and LGBT segments to the forefront of the strategic process;

-Create programs and messaging that are inclusive at the upfront as opposed to being considered reactionary add-ons;

- Build cross-cultural teams or teams with cross-cultural expertise so ideas are not developed in cultural silos;

-Seek cross-cultural truths and determine how they apply to each culture versus creating overarching truths;

-Don’t force total market; recognize that it may not work in every instance and in many cases segment-specific programs are still necessary;

-Be bold enough to lead with a segment-specific insight and idea that has the potential to influence the general market;

- Allocate more dollars, not fewer, to efforts that integrate multicultural and LGBT segments into the general market programming;

-Be operationally ready. Make sure you have alignment across the entire organization so everyone understands the business advantages of communicating to a multicultural audience

Zandra Zuno is executive director and multicultural practice lead at Golin.

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