5 Things You Should Know About Multicultural Marketing

Marketing to migrants living in a new country has many names - multicultural marketing, ethnic marketing or diversity marketing. Even cultural marketing has been used. But what does it really means and how do you do it? Is it hyper advanced or is it just a different messaging in your mainstream campaigns? And how do you build a solid multicultural marketing strategy in 2013 and beyond? In this post we'll answer all these questions and some more so stay tuned.

1. What is Multicultural Marketing?

Let's define this area of marketing once and for all: Some might see multicultural marketing as a form of marketing to international markets (yes, some of you members of the LinkedIn group Multicultural Marketing Experts that still don't know the difference of multicultural and international, we're talking about you!) but it's not! Your cultural background matters when you consume services and products and it matters as well in your perception of brands, companies and experiences. Multicultural marketing is the marketing discipline of communicating towards people with a different cultural history than the country they're living in.

2. Why Do We Need This?

Because language and culture matters when people perceive messages with a commercial or informative content. Native language messages tend to be more emotionally perceived than messages in a foreign language. Meaning, if you try to communicate or sell something to someone whose native tongue is different from yours, it will be better received when you use the same language as their native tongue. Still blurry? This study "Bilingualism and the Emotional Intensity of Advertising Language" (PDF) from the Rotterdam School of Management can help explain it further.

Migrants Become Integrated With Time

Our graph on the acculturation index shows hos migrants become more integrated into the new country every 5 year and picking up more and more of the language. This has an impact on the messaging in the creatives for multicultural campaigns. 5 Important Multicultural Marketing Things You Need To Know Integration is also important when it comes to new media behavior » a digital divide between multicultural communities and other groups simply don't exist. There's a digital divide between age groups, but that's a whole different ball game. Multicultural groups consume as much (and more) of new media and social media as everyone else. So forget that TV, events and print are the only way to do multicultural marketing and say hello to online advertising, video pre-rolls and mobile ads targeted to ethnic groups!

Find New Customers and New Revenue

In case you are a marketer at a company trying to sell to as many people as possible, multicultural marketing is a way of reaching more potential customers and building brand loyalty and sales among new customer groups. With more than 70 million 1st- and 2 generation migrants in Europe, over 50.7 million Hispanics is heading the 36.7% multicultural population in the US, and over 10 million foreigners living in Germany, many markets have untapped potential in them already that is growing quickly. The total purchasing power in the us right now for multicultural groups is over USD 2.4 trillion!! Many companies have seen the positive side effects from their mainstream campaign where ethnic sales picked up and from there they started test campaigns to grow the multicultural channel more. Some companies might already have a strong customer base in foreign-born people but doesn't realize this until a specific event happens that gets their attention - a religious holiday where sales peak or a product might not appeal to some of the ethnic clients. There's a multicultural marketing revenue sweet spot out there for your company too. Believe me.

Just Do It

While we actively propose tests before any major (first) multicultural marketing campaigns are launched, don't be too afraid of running faster as well. It's not rocket science and too many articles have been written about the difficulties and complexities of reaching culturally diverse audiences. If sales are already picking up then you know you have something to build on and you don't need more research, focus groups or polls. Just remember:
  1. All messages are not universal and some groups will need tailor-made messaging
  2. Colors and images can mean different things to different people so check this. Examples are colors like yellow and red that have historical meanings for some audiences. You don't want to p*** off potential clients by showing (to them) offensive creatives.
So now that you've prepared yourself mentally it's time to move forward...copying the famous ad copy tagline of a nice-looking shoe brand... just do it! 

3. How Do I Start With Multicultural Marketing?

Simplest piece of advice is - Run a test. OK, maybe you need to prepare for the test but don't overdo it, please. Run a test and start talking to the different migrant communities in your country: Hispanics in the US, the Indian community in the UK or Turkish immigrants in Germany are examples of large and vibrant groups very visible for sales initiatives and research.

Go For Lunch...

Invite to a lunch to pick people's brain on a specific product or feature, go to an ethnic concert and meet the target audience there, sponsor a local soccer team and talk to their audience or set up an online poll and query multicultural online visitors. Again, don't overdo it but start doing it now. You will be able to connect some dots and picture how a campaign can look like and which focus points to include in the messaging.

4. Where To Focus

There are basically 2 ways to focus your efforts in the starting phase of an ethnic business development and multicultural marketing campaign. Either you start from existing sales that are gaining market share among ethnic audiences and build upon them. Or, you test/research (see above) and checks if your product fits the audience profile. For more help on which products are suitable for ethnic sales see our previous post "Top Products for Multicultural Marketing".

Existing Ethnic Sales Customers

For existing sales, you can derive which groups are buying the product and by looking at the demographics you will be able to see if there's more potential in that group. You must be doing something right as your sales are moving without you lifting a finger, right? Starting a customer referral program for that multicultural target audience is probably something you should do asap now. Can you find partner companies that are strong in the target group? Retailers, telecom or financial players could have a brand loyalty you might be able to tap into and cross-sell your products to through a partnership. If not, go and propose a partnership to a company you see has a similar match for multicultural marketing and sales as you do. Partnerships can go a long way, just make sure you've checked that the partner company actually has the reputation it says it has. Finally, tweak your product in ways so the customers feel that "Wow, Company X has really noticed how we in our group want their product to be". Word-of-Mouth is very strong in multicultural communities so don't under estimate the power of people telling other people about you and your products.

Launch New Products For Multicultural Audiences

Most of you will not have existing sales to build on so you will start from zero. Remember, start testing the product or service with target group people in the different circles we mentioned previously. Build a picture of how your product fit in with how the ethnic audience lives or consumes today. Calling services, financial services, insurances or certain food products all fit in to 100% what multicultural groups either consume today (international calling or certain food categories like halal food) or have a need for which is not promoted today (insurances). Sales can peak during multicultural holiday celebrations like Ramadan (Muslim), Diwali (Hindu), Nouruz (Kurdish/Persian), Chinese New Year (China) or Songkran (Thai New Year). During all of these celebrations, and many more, multicultural groups increase their spend on phone calls, food products, clothing and gifts so it's a natural starting point for a product to be launched.

5. Close The Loop

We're not going to talk about how language matters in the creative ads in this post, that's for another day. But closing the loop means that you need to make sure that your product actually delivers value all the way; if you have a product that need customer service afterwards make sure you have some (not all) customer service reps that speak the right language or that knows the culture you are selling to. You don't want to get a backlash now after investing in multicultural marketing campaigns and product development.
Written by Niklas Nikolaidis

Niklas Nikolaidis is the founder of Joinville; a trading desk and SaaS ad platform that powers digital multicultural campaigns via direct and programmatic media buying.