McDonald's executives are used to other marketers asking them for tips on how to do multicultural marketing better.
The company's role as the gold standard for marketing to ethnic consumers was recognized this week when the fast-feeder was named Marketer of the Year at the annual conference in Miami of AHAA: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing. (The first winner, last year, was Walmart).
Accepting the award on Wednesday at the Marketer of the Year lunch, Adam Salgado, VP, U.S. marketing at McDonald's, said "This recognition is for the journey our brand has taken."
Describing that journey, Mr. Salgado noted that the turning point was the 1980s census, highlighting the rapid growth of the U.S. Hispanic market. Later McDonald's got deeply involved in music, including the Latin Grammys; education, with a generous scholarship program, and sports like the World Cup. And more than a decade ago, McDonald's established its business practice of leading with ethnic insights, starting with research. Mr. Salgado also praised McDonald's U.S. Hispanic agency Alma for "their leadership, Hispanic insights and creative genius." (This year Alma was named Ad Age's Multicultural Agency of the Year).
In an interview earlier, after Mr. Salgado and two other McDonald's executives flew in from a McDonald's event in Orlando to attend AHAA's Marketer of the Year lunch, the three discussed their approach to multicultural marketing.
What do other marketers ask them? "We get a lot of questions about how we orchestrate it internally," Mr. Salgado said.
"They ask about benchmarking, ethnic insights, the marketing structure, how do you do the planning and budgeting," said Priscila Aviles Jamison, senior director, U.S. marketing creative. "You have to become an evangelist. Every year you have to do the job all over again. You still have to justify the business case for it. You have a new CMO, you start all over again."
"We also have a unique structure to have three different marketing directors [for Hispanic, African American and Asian American] who focus on their segments," she said. "They have all the data. We work closely with the marketing directors on strategy and planning so we can executive the creative. [They are] the champions."
The director of marketing for Hispanic is Patricia Diaz. "You've got to live up to the gold standard," she said. "We have to challenge ourselves internally to get to the next level."
Mr. Salgado said that the marketing directors for each segment work closely with agency partners for their segment and McDonald's franchisees. Each of the three ethnic segments has a committee with about 25 members comprising McDonald's execs, agencies and owner-operators that meets regularly; the Hispanic committee is chaired by Ana Madan, a second generation McDonald's owner-operator from New Jersey.
While other marketers hop in and out of the U.S. Hispanic market, and slash budgets when times are tough, McDonald's has a rare consistency and ranks among the top 5 advertisers to Hispanics year after year. McDonald's ranked No. 4 in 2012, spending $107.7 million, and upped its Hispanic media spending by 3.4% to $111.4 million in 2013, based on Kantar Media data analyzed by Ad Age's DataCenter for the Hispanic Fact Pack.
The company is also committed to an AOR approach with agencies, with relationships that go back 40 years with Publicis Groupe's Burrell for African American work and 20 years with Omnicom Group's Alma. Interpublic's Asian-American shop IW Group is a relative newcomer at 11 years.
McDonald's practices the diversity it preaches. At the AHAA lunch, Mr. Salgado and Ms. Aviles Jamison, who are both from Mexico, chatted in Spanish. Mr. Salgado mentioned that he and his wife speak Spanish at home so their two young children will be bilingual.
"We make it our job to know our consumers, and the cultural things that are important to them, and recognize this country is changing dramatically," Ms. Aviles Jamison said. For instance, she said McDonald's has been a World Cup sponsor "forever" but used to focus that effort on Hispanics, and mainly the Spanish-dominant. But soccer's appeal has grown—Ms. Diaz said 30% of U.S. households have a soccer player—and this year McDonald's World Cup effort will be broader, and in both Spanish and English.
An upcoming spot by Alma called "House Divided" mines the insight into a family that is divided because they live in the U.S. but the father roots for his home country Mexico while his son supports the U.S. soccer team. The father is watching a soccer game with his buddies when his son turns up with a group of friends in U.S. soccer jerseys. Eventually their mutual passion for soccer and food (from McDonald's) triumphs. The spot was shot by Mexican actor-director Diego Luna, who lives in Los Angeles and Mexico and liked the premise because it reminded him of his own family life and children who are both Mexican and American.
Another McDonald's brand spot by Alma called "First Customer" that debuted during the Academy Awards was named one of the five best ideas of the year at this week's U.S.H. Idea creative awards.
In a big year for McDonald's, the marketer will be honored with the creative marketer of the year award next month at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.