NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Ask most major marketers what their primary concerns are today, and you'll inevitably get back responses such as digital, cause marketing and multicultural marketing. But those three areas are far from mutually exclusive as the world becomes increasingly blended.
"Within the next three decades, Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians and other minorities, as well as young consumers, will become the country's new majority," Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner's chairman-CEO, recently said in an internal memo calling for a company-wide revamp of multicultural initiatives under the heading, "The Multicultural Key to Our Growth."
But beyond the sheer numbers -- there are 103 million Hispanics, Asians and African-Americans that currently make up one-third of the U.S. population, and are projected by 2042 to become the majority of the nation's population -- this new majority will be a young, diverse group that consumes media very differently.
Their preferences, tastes and ways are influencing what is now known as the "general market." And it is with this "new majority" in mind that some of the nation's largest marketers are shifting the way they speak to multicultural audiences, shaping their messages to address a group that is increasingly complex and diverse.
That fact that African-Americans and Hispanics are two of the largest consumer groups in the small-car segment and also heavy users of social media like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube hasn't been lost on Ford Motor Co. This year it rolled out "Ready Pa' Tu Mundo" ("Ready for Your World"), a social-media, digital and web platform for the 2011 Ford Fiesta that focuses on young, bilingual Hispanics between ages 18 and 34. Unlike some previous efforts, "Ready Pa' Tu Mundo" understands that young Latinos move comfortably in both languages, are heavy users of social media, and might be watching Univision or CNN, and they download -- and upload -- videos on YouTube.
"We understood through research that the bilingual, younger target represented a huge opportunity to position the Fiesta as something very relevant to them," said David Rodriguez, Ford's multicultural-marketing manager. The Ford Fiesta lets young drivers operate digital devices such as MP3 players or Bluetooth-enabled cellphones from one location via voice commands. It also offers hands-free control of applications such as internet radio and an app for Twitter on their smartphones.
"We needed to pitch the car features, of course, but mostly we wanted to put [our consumers] in charge," Mr. Rodriguez said.
Visitors to readypatumundo.com are so much in charge that a patented "slider" lets them control how words appear, ranging widely from Spanish-based, English-based, Spanglish and everything in between. Once there, users interact with three young artists -- Xavi, Alex and Ellie -- who take them to a world of music, filmmaking and visual arts in their preferred mix of language.
General Mills' approach
Targeting Hispanics and African-Americans is also an imperative at General Mills. In May, the company relaunched its Spanish-language effort "Que Rica Vida" ("What a Rich Life") to include a more robust web presence and more content to help young Hispanic women better navigate their life in the U.S. In addition to QueRicaVida.com, General Mills is revamping its social-media push for "Feeding Dreams," a community-driven effort targeting African-American families, which Rudy Rodriguez, General Mills multicultural-marketing director, says has already delivered double-digit sales growth for General Mills products in the African-American community.
Branded entertainment is also playing a role in multicultural marketing. One of the most innovative Hispanic marketers has been State Farm, whose efforts have included a project with their Hispanic shop Alma DDB and Fire Advertainment that created a real band of Mexican musicians to show how the insurance company helps immigrants realize their American dreams.
"We know the face of America is changing, and we want our marketing communications to mirror what's going on in this country," said Pamela El, VP-marketing at State Farm. "It's very deliberate."
"Ethnic segments are leading lifestyle trends," McDonald's USA Chief Marketing Officer Neil Golden said in a speech at last year's ANA conference, adding that 40% of McDonald's U.S. business comes from the Hispanic, Asian and African-American markets.
"Ultimately, what's happening here is that multicultural audiences are no longer a separate market ... they are the general market," said Guy García, author of "The New Mainstream" and founder and CEO of Mentametrix.
Or, as Mr. Bewkes, of Time Warner, concluded in his internal memo: "It is more important than ever for us to get this right, because the future is coming faster every day."