Some Marketers Aren't Confused About Diversity

That 'Lack of Knowledge' Is Starting to Sound Like an Excuse

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Carol Watson Carol Watson
Last week's article on marketer's confusion about the effectiveness of multicultural marketing did not prompt the outrage that I expected from multicultural professionals in the industry. There was much frustration, exhaustion and debate, but most continued to go about the business of making the case, providing the proof, being the evangelists and champions of business building for their clients. The lack of outcry is probably because the research findings didn't come as surprise to anyone that has been working in the space for a while.

We've been having the same old conversation for decades now -- despite many case studies, data, success stories, opportunities to test and way too much demographic data to be ignored. In such a competitive industry, the threat to market share should be enough to get the top minds on board to test and build strong ROI stories as so many have successfully done in nearly every category of business.

What is clear from the study is the need for multicultural talent. Or if companies can't find the actual talent, they should at least find those who get the value of multicultural marketing so that they can infuse the general- market strategies with fresh perspective. Internal champions who have experience working on both multicultural and general-market assignments can bring new ideas to the creative, the media plan and consumer insight.

In contrast to the struggle over the value of diversity and multicultural marketing, brands dive head first into the digital space. They keep investing as the digital space changes daily and they experiment with interactive initiatives and learn along the way. If marketers really want to get behind an idea but are worried, there are testing and assessment processes in place. That said, plenty of them repeatedly sink large sums of money into high-risk initiatives with no testing at all (the yearly Super bowl ad disasters come immediately to mind).

During the same week the story ran in Ad Age, I was surprised to hear the story of resistance by a firm to infuse its company with multicultural experience on a general-market team. The company/account was a consumer-electronics company and it decided that some potential hires were "too urban" to work on a general-market assignment. The irony was the product category was one that has already documented a business opportunity among multicultural consumers -- and an area which the marketer's chief competitor is aggressively pursuing.

Despite what the survey results may claim, I don't think this sort of resistance comes from a lack of knowledge or confusion about how to implement multicultural strategies.

I also heard a story about a major automaker that requested its media agency diversify the media buy to include media that reached not only the target audience but an ancillary multicultural audience as well. The agency did just that. It recommended a media mix that over-delivered the target and also offered an environment that catered to multicultural consumers. For some reason, the client changed its mind and responded that the consumers could be reached in the general market media. No need to put its name in other areas at all. (Interestingly, the enthusiasm for reaching a multicultural audience started with the CMO, but the CMO wasn't supported by others in the company.)

Again, this doesn't sound like a "lack of knowledge" or confusion on how to approach a multicultural market. When given the opportunity to build business, the excuses become very exhausting and quite silly.
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