Making the Shift to Multicultural Marketing

According to Forbes, by the year 2042, there will be no single ethnic majority in America. In fact, by 2017, in the U.S. alone, multicultural markets will have $3.8 trillion in buying power. That’s a lot of buying of products and services. And the question that every business ought to be asking itself right now is how to it spread its brand and make an emotional connection with people who make up all of these cultural groups.

Layers Upon Layers of Multicultural Groups

Each cultural group has its own needs, desires, motivations and belief systems, and these impact the types of services they want and need. Layer onto that the fact that within each cultural grouping are different factors of family, friends, heritage, and environment. For example, within the American Asian community (the fastest growing minority community in the U.S. today), older traditional members have major emotional connections with family and heritage; younger members of this community are a mix of connections – heritage is important, but friends and newer environments are emotionally important too. Consider the difference in the needs and motivations of a middle-aged Asian couple that operates a small business with their son who is now a college student, living in a dorm or apartment several hundred miles away. Their environments are completely different; their needs and motivations are as well.

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The challenge for service businesses today is how to establish an emotional connection between their brands and the huge variety of multicultural groupings. The more they can do this, and the faster they can do this, the more they will lead the pack in their industry niches.

The question, however is this: Does brand promotion try for an over-reaching strategy, developing multicultural marketing that will appeal to anyone, or does brand promotion mean that individual marketing strategies must be designed for every demographic niche? The answer is both, and here’s why.

Understanding Your Market Groups = Engagement and Brand Loyalty

To connect with any demographic you have to “know” it really well. Many companies understand this and have hired consultants and marketers from the same demographics as their target markets. They can then decide whether they can create a “one size fits all” or cross-cultural strategy or if they need to “compartmentalize” their strategies for various groups – a multi-cultural strategy. Here are some pretty critical things to consider before any strategy is developed.

  • Re-define your brand for a multicultural market. Who are you and who do you want to be to the very diverse clients that you will be serving?
  • How can you develop the emotional relationship between your brand and your clients? This is far more important when you are marketing a service, because your relationship lasts longer and is more intimate than the relationship established when there is just the sale of a product involved.
  • How do you develop a core message that is both emotional and rational in its appeal to a multicultural market?
  • How do you tap into core values of such diverse cultural groups? We know, for example, that Hispanics and African-Americans enjoy humor; we know that Asians and E. Indians are far more serious. We know that Hispanics and Asians have different concept of family and family responsibilities than do non-Hispanic whites. We know that Hispanic, Muslim, and Africa-American populations are more “religious” than are Asian-Americans.

How can Key Service Industries Meet the Challenges of Branding to a Multicultural Population? A Couple of Case Studies in Strategy

Prudential Insurance and its Branding Efforts with Hispanics

Prudential Insurance Company has been around “forever,” and it is heavily into the financial services industry, along with its traditional life insurance business. Its core consumer group has always been non-Hispanic white middle-class and upper class population groups. Understanding the shifting demographics of the U.S. population, however, it conducted a study in 2014. Here is what that study found:

  • 53% of Hispanics state that saving for retirement is important and yet only 19% have 401K’s or IRA’s.
  • About the same percentage (20%) have life insurance.

Prudential wanted to dig deeper into these statistics to determine why saving and investing for the future was just not a priority. And here is what they also found:

  • Middle-aged Hispanics hold to the traditional concept of retirement – it is a time when your kids take care of you. You don’t have to plan for it financially because you will be living with your children and grandchildren. The idea of long-term care insurance, then, is out of the question – it’s just not necessary. The need to establish a stream of income during retirement years isn’t necessary either. While this concept is gradually changing within the Millennial Hispanic population, it is not a “done deal” by any means.
  • Hispanics are fully adverse to debt. They do not like to lend or borrow money. And this appears to be a pretty prevalent cultural norm. Getting Hispanics to save for retirement is thus a major marketing challenge. They spend what they have so they don’t have to go into debt.
  • Hispanics are not trusting of those outside of their communities, and are not willing to part with their money to purchase something that is not concrete, like a product.

What this meant for Prudential is that they would spend a great deal of time, effort and money establishing an emotional connection with the Hispanic community during 2015 and beyond. The company knows that it needs to build relationships between itself and the communities and, more important, trust. Here is what they have done so far:

  • Made a major effort to employ more Hispanic agents in those geographic areas that host a large Hispanic community.
  • Focused on establishing personal relationships between Hispanic agents and families in their homes.
  • Because language still has strong emotional connotations for the Latino community, having agents who can speak it and having documents in the language helps to build the Prudential brand as trustworthy.
  • Has supported a major initiative that will provide education about financial services and the benefits of savings and investments for themselves and their families. This education will be provided by Hispanic agents at a personal level.

This is not to say that there is no place for social media in establishing an emotional bond with diverse groups. Millennial Hispanics are quite tech savvy and are bringing their parents along. Some of the marketing efforts can certainly be cross-cultural with a more “one size fits all” strategy, but others have to be more targeted. For example:

In all cultures, parents love their children. So, it might seem that financial services companies could appeal to the general population at large with a social media campaign that features photos of a diverse group of children in school or at play. To a certain extent this is true. However, there are different cultural conceptions of that love and how we think about our children’s futures:

  • An Asian-American family’s love also includes the push for achievement, especially in the academic arena.
  • A Hispanic family’s love includes visions of its children making certain passages toward adulthood. For example, having a picture of a Hispanic teenage girl in her quinceanera dress will establish far more of an emotional connection than the group photo would.

Automobile Insurance Industry and its Branding with Hispanics and African-Americans

Here’s an interesting statistic. 94% of Hispanic men self-identify as sports fans. About the same percentage of African-American men do as well. Armed with this information, many companies with the car insurance industry saw an opportunity to establish an emotional branding appeal to these two groups.

  • All State Insurance has established a sponsorship of the Mexican soccer team and publicized its tour in America all over its website and social media pages. It also sponsors kids’ soccer leagues all over the country. The Hispanic community it becoming far more trustful of All State as a result.
  • Geico is beginning to get into the act as well, particularly with its advertising campaigns during NBA and NFL contests.

If other car insurance companies do not get on board with these marketing strategies, they will be left in the dust.

Small Details are Important

Businesses also need to be mindful about when they can approach marketing with a more singular approach and when marketing should be separate and distinct for various audiences. And in web-based content marketing, if a “one size” approach is going to be used, the details are really critical – diversity must be honored in any media that is used, for example, and never offend. This is where cultural “experts” come into play. Every piece of content, every piece of media that is to be used must be thoroughly “vetted.” We are a diverse nation and an even greater diverse world. It is important, then, that companies find ways to honor all of the cultural differences that make up our rich human race. It is also important that we understand the difference between “racial profiling” and “cultural awareness.” Honoring our rich diversity is just a part of what we all need to do. And if a business is trying to connect with an entire cultural group through the educational benefits of social media, then it will want to write engaging content and place emotionally-relevant media on its site, its blog and its social media accounts that establishes emotional connections with that audience.

The Takeaway

  1. Service industries are in a unique position as they attempt to establish their “reason for being” with multicultural groups. And because this industry has much more long-term and personal relationships with its customers, promoting an emotional bond through branding is the difference between success and failure with cultural groups.
  2. Failure to dig deep into cultural values and belief means failure in the marketplace.
  3. America is a complex mix of cultural heritages and assimilations, and this mix will continue to evolve. The wise business will keep on top of these changes, do its research, and gear its marketing campaigns to meet those changes.

Additional Resources

  • Our Rebranding Kit gives you the tools and knowledge you need to lead your firm through a rebranding.
  • And our Differentiation Guide for Professional Services Firms will help you position your firm’s brand based on real differentiators.
  • Join the conversation on LinkedIn in our group, Professional Services Executive Forum.

How Hinge Can Help

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