As the U.S. population continues to shift to a “minority majority,” multicultural marketing research firms have evolved to meet the growing demands of multicultural marketers tasked with tapping these hard to reach audiences. Over the last 10 years, this transition has occurred in waves.
During the first wave, multicultural marketing research firms followed the multicultural agency model.
Hispanic advertising agencies primarily focused on Spanish-language, thus differentiating them from general market agencies. Similarly, multicultural marketing research firms distinguished themselves from general market research firms by touting their ability to garner insights from Hispanic consumers by leveraging their ability to design and execute research projects in-language. This, combined with the immigration boom during the 1990s, shaped what was considered the “golden age” for both Hispanic marketing and Hispanic marketing research. But as immigration slowed and Hispanic population growth shifted from immigrant to U.S. born, this model proved unsustainable and new models started to emerge.
Around this time, Asian immigration began to grow, African-American purchasing power increased, and multicultural marketing research agencies began to emerge that had not only multicultural expertise but also integrated cutting-edge methodologies and technologies into multicultural research. This was critical to driving insights that not only allowed companies to connect with multicultural consumers but increase market share as well as sales from these audiences grew.
Geoscape, founded in 2003, was one of the first multicultural marketing research companies to emerge from this transition, effectively leading the shift from 1.0 to 2.0 multicultural marketing research. Geoscape gathered offline and online data to create powerful segmentation tools for companies, moving beyond a language or ethnic first approach and incorporating a multitude of data points that created a more holistic picture of multicultural consumers.
The Geoscape acquisition, I believe, marks a shift into the 3.0 multicultural marketing research era. Market research agencies with anemic or nonexistent multicultural research divisions will begin trying to bolster their multicultural capabilities through strategic acquisitions. This emerging multicultural marketing research model combines general market data and multicultural marketing research data into a more useful ecosystem that yields rich behavioral data and big data.
However, the Claritas’ acquisition of Geoscape isn’t the first research company to shore up their multicultural market research capabilities through acquisition. Knowledge Network’s acquisition of Garcia Research was ahead of its time. Knowledge Networks, itself, was eventually purchased by GfK. The Entravision launch of Luminar in 2012 was also visionary. A media company purchasing a big data analytics firm focused on the U.S. Hispanic consumer was particularly prescient given the Geoscape acquisition. More recently, Dentsu’s acquisition of Gravity, driven primarily by Gravity’s multicultural audience data platform, AudienceM, joined the growing list firms using acquisitions or strategic partnerships to fortify their competitive advantage.
As acquisitions of multicultural research and data analytics firms become more prevalent, market research firms will have to compete with organizations that now offer total market capabilities. It's imperative that market research firms be innovative in their approach to not only capturing meaningful consumer insights but in leveraging their experience in doing so to position themselves as authorities in the industry.