"Somebody beat you in, we're going to stick with them," he told the Association of National Advertisers' Multicultural Marketing Conference last week, which drew more than 300 attendees from companies such as McDonald's Corp., Sprint, Home Depot and Lexus. The meeting is ANA's second-largest after its main Masters of Marketing conference.
In a sign of the area's growing importance, Paul Mendieta, director-Hispanic marketing at Coors Brewing Co., said multicultural marketing at his company not only reports directly to the CEO, but is moving toward its own profit-and-loss line.
Former basketball star Mr. Johnson is himself a major multicultural marketer, with 103 Starbucks outlets, 32 Burger King restaurants, AMC movie theaters, 12 gyms and other holdings in what he describes as "urban America." His next venture, aimed at using his urban community for social networking, is the early 2007 launch of Magic New Media, including both wireless and the web.
"Every company's looking for these eyeballs," Mr. Johnson said in a brief interview with Advertising Age. "There's no urban play."
Mr. Johnson entered multicultural advertising a year ago with ZMagic, partnering with Omnicom Group's Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based retail specialist Zimmerman.
Keynote speaker and civil-rights activist Jesse Jackson told the audience that more public hearings on the diversity practices of the ad industry were being planned in Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta.
Subpoenas issued in connection with the threat of similar hearings earlier this year in New York forced 11 of Manhattan's largest agencies to sign historic diversity-hiring agreements with the New York Commission on Human Rights.
He said the hearings would focus on "advertising-industry exclusion policies" and said there will be a "major workshop on advertising" at the Wall Street Project conference the Rainbow Push Coalition is holding Jan. 6-10 in New York. The political activist group, founded by Rev. Jackson in 1968, is heavily involved in minority-rights issues.
Although full details of the multicity hearings were not available, Butch Wing, the national political coordinator of the Rainbow Push Coalition, said they were likely intended to happen in conjunction with the Coalition's 2007 conferences in those cities.
points of difference
Another speaker, Carl Kravetz, chairman of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, outlined how Hispanic behavior and perceptions are significantly different than that of Anglos, as evidenced by the group's "What Makes a Latino Latino" study. There's "a profound shift in the way we look at the things that make us us," he said. "It's not so much what unites Latinos that's important as what makes us different from non-Latinos."
Traditional demographic markers such as Spanish-language usage, country of origin and length of time in the U.S. are becoming much less relevant as the number of bilingual, bicultural households grows quickly.
"There are two parts to our new hypothesis of Latino Cultural Identity-a heart and a set of contextual factors that interact with and continuously reshape the heart," he said. "If the heart is the core of Latino identity, then the four chambers responsible for its functioning are interpersonal orientation; time and space perception; spirituality; and gender perception.
"Interpersonal orientation is the way we live our relationships with other people, and is ... radically different from non-Latinos," he said. For marketers, Mr. Kravetz said, that means understanding the family as a unit, including group decision-making, and avoiding conflict between individual needs and group expectations.
The way Latinos perceive time and space is also very different. They change plans easily, are more present- and past-oriented and value friends and family more than privacy. In contrast, non-Hispanics are future-oriented, have a rigid sense of space and privacy and focus on results, he said.
Religion and spirituality affect how Latinos see the world, imparting both a sense of fatalism and a love of rituals and celebrations. There are also contextual factors-things that make each person individually unique-that interact with the heart's chambers, Mr. Kravetz said.