Charter members of the Association of National Advertisers' Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing recently met in New York for the first all-committee gathering since the group officially kicked off earlier this year. A who's who of CMOs and senior-level marketers, AIMM has also brought agency, media and trade association leadership to the table, many with specializations in black, Hispanic, Asian and LGBTQ marketing, myself among them. Diverse, by design, it is evident that the Alliance is unified by a commitment to reverse a "flattening in the time and attention the marketing community is giving multicultural marketing," as ANA CEO Bob Liodice put it.
Liodice didn't sugar coat the situation as he kicked off the meeting. "We're failing," he said, referring to sluggish sales and anemic business growth industry-wide. But then he pointed to multicultural marketing as an under-used source of brand health. "Multicultural marketing needs to be strongly considered as part of a comprehensive growth strategy," he said.
Cultural targeting is central to the work of the Case for Change committee, led by co-chairs Nydia Sahagun, senior VP of segment marketing at Wells Fargo, and Manoj Raghunandanan, VP of global brand management at Johnson & Johnson. Their analysis suggests that years of oversimplification have set multicultural marketing back, contributing to intellectual interest but enabling action apathy.
"It's not the discipline of marketing that has changed. It's the world around us," said Sahagun, highlighting the importance of consumer-centricity. "It's important for brands to bring culture into their brand so that they can bring their brands into culture. To me, that's the very foundation of sustaining relevance."
AIMM co-founder and researcher Carlos Santiago has been working closely with the Metrics and Measurement Committee to address concerns identified in an AIMM benchmark study. "Accessibility, accuracy and affordability of multicultural data are pivotal issues," Santiago said. "Without equally accurate data, it is nearly impossible to distinguish segment-specific performance from that of general market audiences." He added that "blurred attribution tends to artificially decrease multicultural ROI and inflate the non-Hispanic-white contribution."
Identifying and sharing best practices and exploring innovation in marketers' structures and strategies are priorities for both the Total Market Committee and a fourth committee focused on Multicultural Competencies and Talent. Each continues to work on provocative analysis and proactive action steps to share at the ANA multicultural conference in early November in Miami. While the Total Market Committee has not yet repealed and replaced the phrase "Total Market," there is data to support that its usage, and often random application, has hindered rather than helped marketers to powerfully connect with multicultural communities.
AIMM co-chair Michael Lacorazza, exec VP-head of integrated marketing at Wells Fargo, said he is inspired by the progress AIMM committees are making, and has a sense of urgency about their collective efforts. "I want to move as fast as we can to get some practical ideas on the table for discussion in the community and pressure test some ideas," Lacorazza said.
Lacorazza added that it's important to "actually take some action on some of the recommendations -- not just have it be an academic exercise."
AIMM isn't about one-size-fits-all solutions. "I'd like to see marketers making changes to how things are approached in whatever way they think is right, and then be able to bring that back to the community and talk about what's working," he said.
This alliance of marketing leadership is taking on a decades-old conversation at a time when our country is demanding the C-suite to be crystal clear about what they think is right, and on what side of history they want to stand. Ultimately, it will be up to consumers to tell us what's working. The flattening stops here.