ANA Multicultural Conference: Cultural Courage Trumps Cowardice

How Leading Brands Are Taking a Targeted and Total Market Approach

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About two weeks before this year's ANA Multicultural Marketing and Diversity Conference, Kimberly-Clark's Lizette Williams wrote a LinkedIn post entitled "Courageous Leadership." In it, she referred to a favorite quote: "True courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it."

Last week at the conference, this idea came alive in presentations by top executives from companies like Verizon, Allstate, Western Union and Kaiser Permanente. These leaders assembled in Miami -- one of the most diverse cities in the world -- to discuss their multicultural marketing strategies. They shared successes but emphasized that "this isn't easy" and "it takes work." They learned from failures and had the courage to say "I don't know" or "I was wrong."

Verizon's Javier Farfan underscored the need to "get your house in order" as a foundation for multicultural effectiveness. Infrastructure and operational readiness were key ingredients for many marketeres who worked on cultural fluency from the inside out. Apoorva Gandhi of Marriott International highlighted "differences that make a difference," stating that "diversity of thought will always get you better results."

Denny's CMO John Dillon turned around the brand by understanding the new American family and strategically focusing on shared values inherent in the idea of a "diner." "It's an environment where everyone is equal," said Mr. Dillon, adding that Denny's work leverages insights that connect emotionally across cultures but are not "one size fits all."

Wells Fargo's Mariela Ure shared work targeting bilingual, bicultural Latinos that tested well against a broad spectrum of consumers. Wells Fargo's total market strategy overlaps a total and target market approach. Michael Lacorazza, also from Wells Fargo, acknowledged that while it was "tempting" to consolidate creative under one agency roof, the benefits of working with specialized agency partners outweighed other efficiencies, suggesting that specialists delivered a greater return on insights.

Trying to define "total market" for those not familiar with the concept was not easy. Many speakers tried. The definitions were always preceded by caveats about how convoluted they were and how hard it was to explain simply. As an example, the ANA's own definition reads:

"A marketing approach … which proactively integrates diverse segment considerations. This is done from inception, through the entire strategic process and execution … In marketing communications this could lead to either one fully integrated cross-cultural approach, individual segment approaches, or both in many cases, but always aligned under one overarching strategy."

Total market was not developed as a replacement for target marketing. What total market was designed to address was out-dated "Mad Men"-esque marketing -- the kind of marketing that targets a dominantly straight-white-traditional America; the kind of mono-cultural advertising that floods TV and print. Total market was intended to encourage, if not demand, that marketers finally reflect and respect all consumers, in the face of a demographic tipping point and the changed (not changing) face of America.

Conference chair Gilbert Davila reminded attendees that it wasn't really about multicultural marketing -- it was about marketing in and to a multicultural world.

Given the demographics of America, isn't all marketing multicultural? At the conclusion of Manny Gonzalez's presentation on Moet Hennessy's strategy, titled "Reinventing a Classic for Today's Millennial Consumer," Mr. Davila asked a crystal ball question about the future of multicultural marketing. Mr. Gonzalez predicted a future blending of the ANA's Masters of Marketing Conference with its Multicultural Marketing and Diversity Conference.

At Hennessy, Mr. Gonzalez works with master blenders -- artists known for their craftsmanship. Perhaps, with this spirit in mind, we can look forward to a day when the Masters of Marketing conference authentically reflects inclusion and diversity, with an agenda crafted to turn up the volume on multiculturalism, elevating it from invisible to inclusive to influential. That said, when it comes to covering multicultural content, another Hennessy saying comes to mind: "Never stop. Never settle." There is room for both a crafted cultural blend and "single malt" approach to the multicultural conversation, one that allows for deep dives into the specifics of reaching each segment. We live in the age of "And." Why settle for "Or?"

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