Understand Your Brand's Multicultural Audience

Filed Under: Best Practices, Market Research, Multicultural


Jorge Martínez-Bonilla

Senior Vice President, CultureBeat

In my opinion, I have one of the most enjoyable jobs in marketing: I’m a market researcher. And as if that weren’t gratifying enough, I get to focus on multicultural and Hispanic populations.

My wife, on the other hand, has one of the most (if not the most) rewarding roles a person could aspire to – she is a teacher. As a kindergarten teacher, she molds minds and sculpts souls. While it’s often challenging, she loves interacting with children. In particular, she delights in how diverse her classroom is, with kids of all colors and races, including Hispanic, Anglo, African American, African immigrants, and Iraqi immigrants, to name a few.

A few years back, she commented on how upbeat and grateful one Hispanic family was despite the husband’s pending deportation, while the family ground in plight and poverty. When she told me this, I remarked something along the lines of, “…they, like many immigrants, are probably just thankful to have the opportunity to overcome poverty. Being poor here is likely not the same as being poor in their home country.” She did not quite understand at the moment what I meant, but that changed when she went to meet my parents in my home country of El Salvador. What she experienced while we there changed her thinking about struggle and opportunity.

Now, when her students and their families come to her for help, she has a point of reference to apply to these real-life situations. She is better equipped to understand what “struggle” means to some of these families and the wreckage impoverishment can have on their children’s educational progress.

But how do the challenges of relating to another ethnic group relate to marketing? To start, there are a fair number of brands that have built their understanding of multicultural and Hispanic consumers based purely on anecdotal and secondary information. On the surface, that’s fine, but in a marketplace that is on its way to becoming predominately multicultural (actually, it already is), this approach is unsustainable.

To have a strong, authentic understanding of multicultural audiences and know how to effectively reach them, you need firsthand interactions with your multicultural consumers. In other words, you have to walk a mile in their shoes. There are two rather easy ways to start understanding and living multiculturalism:

  1. Diversify your workforce
  2. Get in front of your audiences with consumer research

Diversify your workforce –They say the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and it most assuredly is when it comes to diversity and multiculturalism. In 2015, McKinsey & Company published an article titled, Why Diversity Matters, in which they displayed evidence of the positive impact of embracing diversity in organizations. One of their findings stated, “Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.” Sounds like a win-win to me.

Get in front of your audience with consumer research –This is what we do at C+R, and we do it well. One of the main reasons we do this well is because our own team is diverse. Last time I counted, we had about 13 nationalities and cultures represented. This in a sense allows us to have walked a mile in your audiences’ shoes rather literally because we represent this multicultural group.

Multiculturalism is here to stay. As marketers it’s important that you know your target. We can help you understand your evolving multicultural consumer. In the meantime, if conducting research is not in your immediate plans or budgets, here are a few resources to get a firsthand perspective about multicultural consumers.

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