Marketers that want to get ahead and stay ahead of rapidly shifting demographics need to go wider and deeper with their efforts, said speakers at a conference on promotions and ethnic markets. The Marketing Institute, a division of the Institute for International Research, sponsored the event last month.
One-shot promotions tied to Cinco de Mayo or Chinese New Year aren't considered a serious approach anymore, speakers said. To be successful, ethnic marketing should be part of a year-round campaign and must be sensitive to the diversity of cultures within each group.
"Target marketing, ethnic marketing, minority marketing-what do they all have in common? Marketing. It requires a long-term commitment, but it's worth the investment," said Gary L. Berman, president of Market Seg-ment Research, Miami.
Colgate-Palmolive Co.'s approach to ethnic markets has already evolved.
"When we started in ethnic marketing, we put everything into Cinco de Mayo and saw a little bump in sales but, at the end of the day, no big change," said Steven A. White, general manager-market development. "Where we've come to is continuous activity. Retailers like Wal-Mart taught us that because they aren't willing to make big changes for just one week. Now, every month we have something that targets an ethnic market."
The result has been a much bigger budget commitment-something many executives say is lacking at their companies-and stronger results from each promotion, Mr. White said.
To limit ethnic marketing is to limit a company's outreach beyond the target audience, Mr. White suggested. Even as marketers need to understand the different cultures that comprise the U.S., they should see how promotions for one group can affect others.
A calendar featuring art work by black women, jointly offered by Colgate and its retail partners, was successful way beyond the African American market, Mr. White noted. In the fourth quarter, the company will test an unspecified joint Hispanic/African American promotion.
Marketing to Hispanics, Asians and African Americans is increasingly important as the population mix shifts. Some major cities are already majority non-Anglo. In Los Angeles, Hispanics alone represent 40% of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
"Whether you like it or not, the people who understand [ethnic markets] will be positioned for long-term success," Mr. White said.
But perhaps worse than doing nothing at all is launching a hasty promotion that fails to understand the community, speakers said.
"We [African Americans] are turned off by corporations that don't take the time to get to know us. We feel they're taking advantage of us if they don't," said Faith Griffin Morris, VP-managing director of public relations at Burrell Communications Group, Chicago.
Chris Bomze, area manager-consumer planning at Southwestern Bell Telephone, said the marketer revised a 1991 ad campaign aimed at increasing subscriptions among Mexican immigrants.
"The [original] ads won a lot of awards, but they didn't result in any significant increase in sales of services," she said. The company learned not to translate English to Spanish but to write the original in Spanish and "to show price where you can."
Kate Fitzgerald coordinates Promotion Marketing News.