By Published on .

Corporate america, long lambasted as impossible to move as concrete with regard to ethnic America, now seems prepared, even eager, to reach out.

In some ways, it's a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Walt Disney Co. this month aired a new version of Cinderella -- the classic thorn in the feminists' side -- during its Sunday night "Wonderful World of Disney."


This time around, though, it was a cultural treasure trove. Cinderella is played by Brandy Norwood, and her fairy godmother is Whitney Houston, who also was an executive producer of the show. Prince Charming is Filipino Paolo Montalban and one of the stepsisters is Natalie Desselle.

The multicultural casting was a hit with America, posting an 18.8 ratings for the time period and giving ABC-TV its best ratings in the time period for more than a decade. But it also conveniently manifests the new melting pot, which is more and more becoming a flavorful stew than a homogeneous mix.

Statistics from the University of Georgia and research company Market Segment Research & Consulting reflect this. Of 268 million people in the U.S., 34 million, or 13%, are African-American with spending power of $469 billion; 29 million (11%) are Hispanic with spending power of $348 billion and about 10 million (3%) are Asian-American with spending power of $110 billion. The remainder of the population is made up of non-Hispanic whites (72%) and American Indian, Eskimo and Aleut (1%).

With more than 25% of the population composed of people with strong cultural ties, advertisers have to better communicate with a big chunk of the consumer base.

In many cases, that means creating general-marketing campaigns that can be effectively related -- not merely translated -- into a variety of languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese.

The Asian-American segment -- with a median age of 31 years and a median income of $43,200 -- is growing at the fastest rate, according to Gary Berman, president of MSR&C.

However, the Hispanic segment also is growing fast and ultimately there will be more Hispanics than African-Americans.

The Hispanic market has been a learning ground for advertisers (see related story on Page S-2).

Although advertisers had been reaching out to the African-American segment since the early 1960s, it was the language barrier in the Hispanic market that forced advertisers to address the cultural segmentation challenge by using "in-language" marketing strategies.


AT&T Corp. first started culturally segmented marketing in the 1970s, initially through direct marketing efforts, says Lynette Pinto, division manager, multicultural marketing communications at AT&T.

According to Fred Teng, district manager-multicultural marketing communications, AT&T has been marketing to the Asian market for about 8 years and works closely with its primary agencies, as well as the specialty agencies that handle multicultural segments.

Campaigns have evolved over the years from simply translating the general-marketing campaign into a particular language to the more sophisticated approach used today.

"We just launched a general market campaign last year, what we called the AT&T brand campaign. We have done commercials for different multicultural groups. We took different products and services [pertinent to a specific segment], but it falls under the same look and feel of the general marketing campaign," says Ms. Pinto.


"We have times when five or six agencies are in the room with the top VPs talking about the campaign. We also have smaller groups. The bigger group usually happens less frequently than the smaller group," says Mr. Teng.

About 9% or 10% of AT&T's total advertising budget, including TV, radio, print, outdoor and direct marketing, is spent on various multicultural marketing, says Mr. Teng. That includes Arabic, Polish and Russian markets in the U.S.

"It's been a big task because we have done a lot of work in the past and have unified the agencies to work together -- it is pretty seamless -- you can't tell its different agencies creating these ads," says Mr. Teng.


AT&T's agency roster lists New York-based shops Y&R Advertising, McCann-Erickson Worldwide and Foote, Cone & Belding for general marketing; Bravo Group for Hispanic; Keng & Lee Advertising for Asian; UniWorld Group for African-American; and YAR Communications for diversified advertising.

BellSouth Telecommunications a division of BellSouth Corp., with media expenditures of about $129 million, spends about 8% of that on multicultural markets, according to Dee Freeman, director of advertising and marketing-cross unit branding.


Merkley Newman Harty, New York, handles general marketing for BellSouth and IAC Advertising Group, Miami, handles Hispanic advertising. Ms. Freeman says BellSouth does not have specialty agencies to handle Asian and African-American segments.

One of the factors holding up marketing to the Asian-American segment, for BellSouth as well as other companies, is the lack of an ability to identify the microsegments and reach them through various media.

Ms. Freeman says she is in the discovery mode, to identify the Asian segments and how fast they are growing in her region.

"We don't know if they are Chinese, Japanese, Korean, which languages they speak and how I would need to bundle my products and services and if in fact there is a difference. But I plan on finding out real soon," says Ms. Freeman.


Meanwhile, the primary outlet of in-culture marketing is to the Hispanic market. Ms. Freeman says IAC is included in joint meetings with Merkley so everybody understands the strategy. She works with IAC to develop correct adaptation of the strategy in that market.

An example of how a general marketing campaign was developed into a Hispanic campaign is best seen in the case of "Chatsford," a fictional contemporary town in ads featuring most of the elements available in the nine-state region. The spokesman in TV spots is an "anyman" character.

The Hispanic market version features "Villa Charla" a charming Latin villa filled with homes with red tile roofs, lots of flowers, sunshine and palm leaves. The spokesman in this spot, Andres, however, is a well-known member of the community and more of an authority figure.


"We went into [multicultural marketing] with very little. . .In 1996, we did our first 60-second commercial so in 1997 our spending is 10 times what it was in 1996. It will probably double for 1998," says Ms. Freeman.

The telecommunications category has been important for the various cultural segments, because when companies such as AT&T give the nod to a segment, other advertisers tend to fall in line.

McDonald's Corp., in fast-food, has had ethnic agencies for more than 20 years.


Burrell Communications Group, Chicago, handles African-American marketing; Del Rivero, Messianu, Coral Gables, Fla., handles Hispanic.

According to Bill Lamar, VP-national marketing, McDonald's does not advertise nationally to the Asian-American market, although there are local store marketing programs [called shelf programs] used in the San Francisco area and in New York. Those efforts are mainly events, promotions and radio.

Mr. Lamar says McDonald's best multiagency effort to date is the new "Did somebody say McDonald's?" campaign.

Needham worked with shops

"This was [lead agency DDB Needham Worldwide's] idea, and in the development of it, they took the initiative and sat down with DRM and Burrell and really worked through it as they were developing the line to make sure it did have relevance to the target audiences. Needham was quite open to making adjustments to make sure it would," says Mr. Lamar.

What impressed Mr. Lamar was the fact the agency took the initiative to get with the partner agencies in the development stage.

"We had done it before. But I certainly think this was a time when there didn't need to be prompting from the client," says Mr. Lamar.

"Needham recognized that for us these are not small segments of our business. The general market doesn't mean the Anglo market," says Mr. Lamar.

He also points out that over the years, Burrell has brought ideas to the table including the recent "Little Expert" campaign.

Many advertisers say they want all consumers to understand the same basic message about the company and its products. Therefore, they are willing to craft that message for a specific group and send it out along pertinent channels such as Fox TV, Univision or Telemundo affiliates.


Kmart Corp. recently launched a radio and TV campaign promoting its Big K stores. The effort is the retailer's first unified approach to the African-American, Hispanic and general markets.

"Discover the difference," running in 19 markets, was created by Kmart's general agency, Campbell Mithun Esty, Minneapolis. The African-American execution was handled by Don Coleman Advertising, Southfield, Mich. The Hispanic execution was handled by Castor Advertising, New York.

Some advertisers focus on in-house strategy and education efforts.

For example, Quaker Oats Co. recently instituted a special council to create a synergy across different brands with ethnic target markets.

A number of Quaker brands are represented on the council: Cap'n Crunch; Instant Quaker oatmeal; Quaker oats; Cap'n Crunch bar; Gatorade; Aunt Jemima products; and ready-to-eat cereals, says council leader Chip Purrington, assistant marketing manager on the Cap'n Crunch brand.

"In terms of a specific campaign, most is yet to come," says Mr. Purrington. The brands are working closely together as a team to learn and share their understanding of the Hispanic and African-American segments, he says.


The group will consider topics such as research, minority suppliers, national promotions and retail partners.

According to Mr. Purrington, local marketing arms with a high density of Asian-American consumers put together programs to address specific needs.

In general, advertisers have found the African-American and Hispanic markets respond favorably to grassroots promotions.

Charles Hudson, manager of corporate and diversity communication at Chrysler Corp., says Chrysler's integrated marketing programs have been successful in the African-American and Hispanic markets.

"It's important [consumers] see that Chrysler recognizes the importance of their market and does to some extent some corporate marketing efforts as well as product marketing efforts," says Mr. Hudson.

Mr. Hudson says the general market agency, Bozell Worldwide, works closely with such ethnic agencies as Montemayor & Asociados, San Antonio, Texas.


Last month, Chrysler launched three spots targeting African-Americans featuring the 1998 Dodge, Jeep and Plymouth vehicles. The Coleman-created spots feature Gospel singer Kirk Franklin, R&B singer Barry White and 1993 Miss USA Kenya Moore.

J.C. Penney Co. has been targeting African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American segments with its "I love your style" campaign developed by Temerlin McClain, Irving, Texas.

Graham Gregory Bozell, New York, works with Temerlin on African-American promotions; Cartel Creativo, San Antonio, handles Hispanic marketing.

While the cultural marketing nuances are important, Penney's also relies heavily on relationship marketing, says Manny Fernandez, manager of sports and fashion segment marketing.

"A lot of the things we are doing, we are doing because it is the right thing to do. We are looking to build relationships long term with all of our customers,"

Most Popular
In this article: