Beyond Stereotypes: Embracing Specificity for Authentic Multicultural Marketing

Multicultural marketing has emerged as a critical strategy for brands seeking to reach and engage a broader audience in today's interconnected, global marketplace. However, the days of generic, one-size-fits-all campaigns are long gone. Today's discerning consumers demand authenticity and cultural relevance, and it's up to brands to rise to the challenge and meet their needs.

Specificity promotes diversity and increases representation.

Specificity is the cornerstone of effective multicultural marketing. While targeting broader ethnic or cultural groups represents a step forward from the general market, it still fails to address the inherent diversity within these groups. Instead, brands must delve deeper, understanding the nuances, subcultures, and unique experiences that define each audience segment.

Latinx audiences, for instance, are often stereotyped as abuela-focused or reduced to Spanglish catchphrases in hastily translated general market ads. But these tired tropes do not account for the rich diversity, lived experiences and varied levels of acculturation within Latinx communities.

Consumers crave genuine representation and identify with advertising that mirrors how they see themselves and how they live. Whether it's language nuances, celebrating cultural traditions, or portraying diverse family structures, brands that avoid stereotypes will pull ahead.

Consumer scrutiny of DEI remains high.

The rise of multicultural marketing coincides with escalating calls for social justice, particularly in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Since then, companies have woken up to the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), creating executive-led initiatives to drive change within these organizations.

However, recent trends suggest that the corporate focus on DEI may be waning. Layoffs within DEI departments and pending lawsuits suggest a decline in DEI efforts, which could impact multicultural marketing strategies.

Despite the corporate ebb and flow, consumer scrutiny of diversity and inclusion efforts or the lack thereof remains steadfast. Consumers are increasingly aware of companies' DEI commitments and hold them accountable through their purchasing decisions.

A recent ThinkNow study found that 72% of consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that demonstrate genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion. This sentiment is echoed across all demographics, including multicultural consumers.

Multicultural Marketing and DEI have a symbiotic relationship.

Effective multicultural marketing is inextricably linked to a deeply ingrained culture of DEI within an organization. When DEI is embedded in the corporate DNA, it fosters a culture of empathy, respect, and inclusivity, empowering the people behind the brands to create authentic and culturally relevant marketing campaigns that, in turn, reinforce DEI efforts.

The future of marketing is multicultural.

As the election cycle heats up, issues of race and ethnicity are poised to dominate public discourse. Now more than ever, companies need to demonstrate their commitment to DEI.

The future of marketing is undoubtedly diverse. By fostering empathy, understanding, and respect for these audiences, brands will forge stronger bonds, drive growth, and emerge as leaders in multicultural marketing.

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Creating Personalized Marketing Experiences with Multicultural Data

As digital marketing continues to evolve, creating personalized marketing experiences for consumers has become critical to successful marketing strategy. In the past, marketers relied on tools like third-party cookies to personalize the customer journey. But with cookies going away in 2024, it’s more important than ever to collect zero-party data to create those personalized marketing experiences while respecting consumer privacy.

Equally as important, however, is the use of multicultural data. The U.S. is becoming increasingly diverse, with much of that growth driven by young consumers. Using multicultural insights helps to personalize their experiences, thus creating stronger bonds that ultimately improve business outcomes.

Diversity is driving personalized marketing.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, multicultural consumers currently represent approximately 40% of the U.S. population and are projected to account for 55% of population growth over the next five years. Therefore, brands looking to succeed in the U.S. market must understand the needs and preferences of these consumers. It’s important to remember that people change, societies evolve, and cultures shift. Brands that stay attuned to national population trends and behavioral pivots and make efforts to understand the cultural drivers influencing them are in the best position to engage this consumer market successfully.

Zero-Party Data is permission-based.

Personalized marketing experiences are no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a necessity. Consumers today expect to receive messages relevant to their interests and needs, and marketers who fail to deliver such experiences will be left behind. One of the keys to creating personalized marketing experiences is the use of zero-party data. Zero-party data is data that consumers intentionally and proactively share with companies. This type of data is valuable because it provides insights into what consumers want. As third-party tracking tools retire, zero-party data is becoming one of the most sought-after permission-based tools for engaging consumers more effectively.

Multicultural data aids cultural competence.

Zero-party data, however, is just one piece of the puzzle. Another key component of personalized marketing is the use of multicultural data. ThinkNow research shows that multicultural consumers have unique needs and preferences, and understanding these nuances is crucial for creating effective marketing campaigns. For example, diverse cultures may have different values, beliefs, and traditions that can influence their purchasing decisions. By understanding these differences, marketers can tailor their messaging to resonate more strongly with multicultural audiences.

Multicultural data can also help brands avoid cultural missteps that could damage their reputation. ThinkNow research has shown that multicultural consumers are more likely to engage with brands that prioritize diversity and inclusion in their marketing efforts and are willing to stop frequenting a store that does not. From campaign strategy to execution, multicultural data can help brands build a deeper connection with multicultural consumers by helping them market in-culture, avoiding common mistakes that could prove very costly.

To effectively use multicultural data, it's important to ensure that it is collected and analyzed ethically and responsibly. Brands must take care to avoid stereotypes and assumptions when analyzing multicultural data and should work to understand the nuances and complexities of diverse cultures. Additionally, brands should be transparent about their data collection practices and ensure that consumers know how their data is being used.

In Summary

Using zero-party and multicultural data to personalize marketing experiences has become a business imperative. Multicultural consumers are a diverse and rapidly growing segment of the population, and brands that don't consider their needs and preferences risk alienating a significant portion of their potential customer base. Cookies are on their way out, so the demand for zero-party data will only increase.

By using these types of data in an ethical and responsible manner, brands can create more authentic and meaningful connections with their audiences and drive business success.

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DEI and Executive Buy-In: Why Hiring and Multicultural Marketing Are At Risk

Diversity, equity, and inclusion have been at the forefront of public consciousness since 2020. While these tenants were commonly known in academia, awareness among the general public is relatively new. Many companies and brands, in particular, are now grappling with balancing consumer expectations for DEI and navigating their learning curve.

DEI doesn't exist in a silo, however. It's not a department or a destination – it's a journey that winds through every aspect of an organization. It takes the total commitment of executive leadership for DEI to permeate an organization's culture and show up in its practices, from hiring diverse talent to launching inclusive marketing campaigns. This is particularly pertinent for firms interested in multicultural marketing. Firms with little to no representation of diverse professionals will find it challenging to attract multicultural consumers, and these firms may also find it harder to attract qualified candidates. Like consumers, job seekers want to work for an organization that shares their values, especially Millennials and Gen Zers, who comprise a large percentage of today's talent pool.

In this episode of The New Mainstream podcast, Dominique Dickson, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager at Heidrick & Struggles, explains why executive buy-in is crucial for building an inclusive workplace culture, attracting diverse candidates, and achieving better business outcomes.

About Our Guest:
Dominique Dickson is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager at renowned executive search and leadership consulting firm, Heidrick & Struggles. She began her career there in 2016 as a member of the Global CEO & Board practice that manages recruitment of the world's top leaders across a wide range of industries. Dominique was promoted to the internal DE&I function at the firm in 2021. Prior to joining Heidrick, she held various corporate operations, communications, executive support and project management positions in the legal, asset management and business consulting industries.

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Culture and Multicultural Identity: Names Matter

Keeping pace with culture can be challenging for brands. Consumer dynamics are evolving and becoming increasingly fluid, particularly around identity. Several factors influence how consumers see themselves and shape their attitudes, behaviors, preferences, and biases, including their heritage and culture. Through this lens, consumers make purchase decisions and establish brand affinities, requiring companies to develop a better understanding of the complexity of identity.

Multicultural consumers are often motivated by a desire to represent their culture in how they identify their race and ethnicity. In 2020, ThinkNow conducted a nationwide online survey among Hispanics, African Americans, and Asian Americans ages 18 to 64 to understand how they prefer to identify themselves among peers and in marketing and media. This year, we conducted a follow-up study in which we found that the needle hadn’t moved much, with a few exceptions.

Download the report here.

Naming Preferences: Hispanics

In 2020, we found that the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino/Latina” were preferred by the majority of U.S. Latinos across different scenarios, in particular, when they or others (i.e., media, companies) referred to this population as a whole. That consensus holds in 2022, with the majority of Hispanics preferring the term “Hispanic” when used in most contexts, followed by “Latino(a).”

There was a noticeable shift in sentiment when respondents were asked about naming preferences “when describing yourself in a professional setting (job, interview, etc.).” In 2020, 36% preferred Hispanic and 26% preferred Latino(a). In 2022, 43% of Hispanics preferred “Hispanic” (increase), and 20% preferred “Latino(a),” a six-point decrease.

Interestingly, there is a five-point decrease in the use of the term “Latino(a)” when respondents were asked naming preferences “to use when describing or naming all people of Spanish or Latin American heritage in the U.S.,” from 30% to 25%.

Consistent with data reported in 2020, the term “Latinx” continues to exist in the margins. However, 3 out of 5 Hispanic adults have heard of the term, but it has yet to achieve broad adoption except among younger generations.

Naming Preferences: African Americans

Among African Americans, we saw naming preferences become more nuanced. In 2020, 49% of African Americans preferred media, companies, and brands to refer to them as “African American,” and 33% said “Black,” accounting for 82% of respondents. This year, only 37% of African Americans prefer that companies, brands, and the media use the term “African American,” followed by “Black” (23%) and “Black American” (22%). While the total percentage of respondents is the same here, we saw an additional preference emerge not accounted for in 2020. While commonly used, the term “people of color” is not preferred in most cases.

Naming Preferences: Asian Americans

Among Asian Americans in 2020, when asked about naming preferences “for the media/companies/brands to use when describing/naming,” 8% of respondents stated “My Country of Origin + American.” But in 2022, 14% held that preference. Very few Asian Americans prefer to solely be called “American.”

Multicultural Identity

Across the three cohorts, the term “American” was among the least favored naming preferences indicating a desire among multicultural consumers to connect with their heritage. The onus is on media, companies, and brands to research to uncover cultural drivers underpinning multicultural identity and how these factors affect consumption habits.

Download the report here.

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Gen Z: Brands Need To Prioritize DEI And Gender Liberation

For someone who has been working in multicultural marketing for almost two decades, the past few years have been transformative. Diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) and representation in public and private organizations are works in progress. But the momentum is stronger than it’s ever been. The entrepreneur and somewhat skeptic in me, however, wonders if this is just a phase. Will corporate America move on to the next big thing? There are already murmurs that ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) will be the new focus as DEI demand wanes.

Then I think of Gen Z, the post-millennial cohort which precedes Generation Alpha, born between the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2010s. These forward-thinking digital natives have turned our society’s perspective on identity upside down. As such, I am confident that the principles of diversity and inclusion will remain and evolve in the future, creating a true sense of belonging for everyone.

What Makes Gen Z Views So Different?

Gen Z is the first minority-majority generation (if they are the majority, why do we use “minority”? That’s another blog post ...), so it makes sense that their views on diversity and inclusion will be markedly different from past generations. One example illustrated by a Pew Research study shows that 62% of Gen Zers see increased diversity as good for society.

Their views on diversity extend to the companies they show support for through their purchases. A study conducted by Quantilope reports that of 630 Americans surveyed, nearly 80% of Gen Zers said that it’s important for brands to address diversity and inclusion. And their demands go beyond representation and DEI efforts to what is perhaps the most significant catalyst for sustainable change within organizations: corporate leadership. The same survey shows that more than half (53%) of Gen Zers want to see more diversity in senior leadership.

Advocates For Gender Liberation

Race and ethnicity are not the only factors defining Gen Z’s view of diversity. Their opinions on gender are reshaping societal norms, too. According to Pew Research, Gen Z is by far the most likely to say forms or online profiles should include more than the standard binary options of “man” or “woman.”

This young demographic also embraces concepts like neurodiversity and advocates for greater accessibility for the disabled. In a recent article, Forbes contributor and neurodiversity expert Nancy Doyle writes: “For many Gen-Z people, ethics, equity, diversity and inclusion are their motivation and their calling. Workplaces sticking to rigid definitions, mining identity politics for skills that can be exploited without embracing intersectional diversity are going to gain a bad reputation, losing talent.”

This sentiment is echoed in my agency’s diversity and inclusion study, where 54% of Gen Z indicated that D&I should be inclusive of disabled equality. That’s higher than all other groups, with millennials at 45%, Gen X at 48% and boomers at 39%.

So, will corporate America eventually tire of doing the hard work it takes to create more diverse and inclusive cultures, products and services? It is likely. But will Gen Z allow them to pull back their investments? The data says “not a chance.” Gen Z is bold and vocal, and this generation has only known diversity and will demand it with their dollars and their actions.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.

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Multicultural Marketing, A Strategy Not A Tactic

2020 was a year of highs and lows. For marketers who have always maintained a commitment to diversity and inclusion, the calls for social justice strengthened their resolve. For many others, however, the momentum of acknowledging the problem gave way to frantic, reactive statements that quickly fizzled out or failed. A year later, companies realized their approach to diversity and inclusion couldn’t be summed up in a social media post. (more…)

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How to Create and Measure Successful Multicultural Marketing

Corporate spend on multicultural marketing is expected to grow in 2022. Some of that budget is likely motivated by a long overdue cultural reconning with racial injustice, and some of it boils down to simple demographic realities. The 2020 Census revealed that the non-Hispanic White population shrank in real numbers for the first time in U.S. history. Minorities accounted for all the population growth over the past decade. Our consumer economy is becoming ever more reliant on multicultural spend, and those consumers expect to see themselves reflected in the media. (more…)

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