Come on up: The rise of multicultural marketing

multicultural_lump_of_peopleWhen Barack Obama took the oath of office last January, he redefined America – not just this country and its brand, but its constituency as well.  In many ways he is living proof of a phenomenon that demographer’s have been predicting for quite some time:  descendents of the early settlers will be a minority by 2050 (then, a correction last year – 2042), and traditional minorities, will be the majority.

What does that mean to marketers, to brands, to this country, to the long-held American ethos?

I believe that it means that maybe we should put technology aside for a moment, and focus on the American consumer for a bit. We should identify how he/she has changed over the last four decades (and will continue to change), what he/she looks like (not just demographically, but psychographically), how he/she behaves, and alas – how connected  he/she is to a network? Regarding the all important network, we should also identify the network’s composition, how he/she interacts with said network (off-line, on-line, linguistically, culturally), and how we marketers can connect with the network via the consumer.

Multicultural markets come in many shapes, hues, and sizes. The largest multicultural segment in the US is the Hispanic market – the largest minority in this country.  How does one market to this group in a way that resonates with the target?

Many marketers are well aware of the data surrounding Hispanics (particularly, US born Hispanics).  They are extremely connected. Not just with people, but with technology. They over-index on cell-phone usage, social networking, blogging, recommending products/services to family and friends; indeed, they are brand influencers.  Yet, few truly understand how to market to them effectively and affectively (reach AND touch).

Most advertisers bifurcate the Hispanic market by linguistics – if they are immigrants, we’ll market to them in Spanish, if they are US born, we’re reaching them with our current English-language general market campaigns, so we’re covered. That assumes reach alone is enough to make an emotional connection that will lead to brand awareness/consideration.  More importantly, it erroneously presumes that assimilation happens in two generations; the reality is the path to assimilation takes three generations.  So if you think you are reaching the second-generation in a way that resonates with them via English-language alone, you are mistaken.  This target lives in two worlds.  It’s not about either/or (Spanish/English), it’s about AND. We’re hybrids.

As our new president so eloquently stated in his speech regarding race last year, he couldn’t deny the black community or his white grandmother…because by doing so he would in essence deny himself (and this country).  Multicultural America doesn’t have to choose one or the other – it can/and does, live in more than one culture, language and world. Marketers need to deeply discern this multiculturalism, and market to this new reality if they are going to be successful in the next generation.

As Bruce Springsteen so aptly sang when he kicked off the We Are One concert in celebration of Obama’s inauguration: Come on up for the rising. Indeed, come join us America.