Why Does Multicultural Expertise Matter In Marketing Research?

June 25, 2020 Author: Mario X. Carrasco

Many factors come into play when choosing a market research vendor. Some of the most common are methodological expertise, pricing, and, most importantly, data quality. However, when a multicultural research need comes up, rarely do corporate researchers vet their vendor’s multicultural expertise. So, should it be a prerequisite for getting the job? Absolutely, and here’s why.

Handing multicultural market research projects over to companies with minimal, at best, multicultural marketing research expertise is like giving a copy test project to a company that specializes in brand tracking. Ironically, the brand tracking company could likely pull it off, given the straightforward methodology. Executing a multicultural research project, on the other hand, is more complicated given the numerous considerations and methodological tweaks necessary to deliver actionable multicultural insights.

Multicultural Expertise Matters

To put it plainly, multicultural expertise matters in marketing research and the three factors below explain why:

  1. Cultural background influences responses – During a recent podcast interview, I mentioned the concept of Hispanic positivity bias in marketing research. This concept is a blog post unto itself. However, in short, this bias is the predisposition Hispanic respondents have towards ranking attributes in survey instruments more positively than the general market. The host had never heard of the concept and has been in marketing research for over 30 years.

    Therein lies the problem. Understanding how one’s cultural background affects survey responses allows you to design survey instruments that represent the respondents’ actual opinions versus one that confuses opinion with positivity bias.
  2. Creating representative samples of multicultural consumers is complex – Mapping out how the U.S. Hispanic population is dispersed in the U.S. by the four main census regions and nine sub-regions is straightforward. However, once you get into country of origin, language, and acculturation, creating a representative U.S. Hispanic sample becomes more complex quickly.

    Creating a representative U.S. Hispanic sample plan is relatively straightforward, as well. But, developing an Asian American sample plan raises the level of complexity due to multiple countries of origin and various language preferences. The Census does not gather language preference or media language preference. Therefore, creating representative samples of multicultural consumers takes a market researcher that is experienced in creating multicultural sample frames that use the Census as a base and then rely on other trusted data sources to ensure a representative sample.

  3. Multilingual capabilities are necessary – Let’s turn to the survey experience. I’ve taken surveys that were translated by Google translate, and it just doesn’t cut it. Using translation houses to translate your surveys aren’t a fix either because they specialize in translating copy, not survey instruments. There’s a big difference. The intention of the question can be lost when directly translated. The ability to not only translate but translate in the context of market research is in a multicultural market researcher’s wheelhouse.

Market Research Short Cuts Cost

While the above list is by no means exhaustive, it does represent the top three issues I have seen when research firms conduct multicultural marketing research without multicultural expertise. The outcome? Tragic marketing campaigns that miss the mark, wasted ad spend, and damage reputations.

For our economy, shifting to a majority-minority nation means that multicultural consumers are becoming a larger portion of the U.S. consumer base. With that comes their spending power. It has never been more important for brands looking to capture new audiences to get their messaging right. But that’s near impossible to do if you fail to uncover the opinions of multicultural consumers accurately. This requires a unique skill set that only a multicultural market research firm can bring to the table.