How would you describe the typical American?
It is becoming harder and harder to do – and this has implications for marketers.
According to research from communications firm GlobalHue, the mixture in the American melting pot is becoming gradually richer and more complex. As cultural lines continue to blur, marketers will find that understanding consumers requires more than a single cultural lens.
Case in point: A recent Bendixen & Amandi poll shows that young Hispanics define being American in their own terms. For many, that means proudly speaking “Spanglish” and straddling two cultures – honoring their Hispanic roots while defending American values and pursuing the American dream.
Trends like these are proof that the old rules of multicultural marketing no longer apply. Today’s marketers need to understand the new cultural landscape and communicate to their target audiences in a way that acknowledges cross-cultural similarities over differences.
So how can marketers acquire a taste for what’s cooking in the new melting pot? Here are a few suggestions:
1) Expand your familiarity with other cultures
- When you travel, go out on a limb and try a homestay with a foreign family. Or, if that’s not your cup of tea, take advantage of local tour guides to ask questions about cultural attitudes and norms.
- Volunteer as a conversation partner for someone new to the U.S. Most universities have language partner programs, and organizations like the International Rescue Committee can pair you with a family or individual acclimating to a new way of life in the states. You’ll be amazed at what you learn as you work to communicate and find common interests with people from varying cultures and ethnicities.
- Look to your peers for insight. If you have friends from backgrounds different from your own, talk to them about the similarities and differences they perceive among cultural groups.
- At the very least, make a point to explore other cultures through books, movies and news media. New America Now is a great place to start. Check out its Ethnoblog and poll series.
2) Leverage social networks for research and experimentation
- Peruse blogs, Twitter hashtags and Facebook groups targeting specific cultural audiences. Below are just a few examples:
- Sandip Roy – a blogger and radio show host who frequently covers issues pertaining to Indian-Americans
- #LATISM – the Twitter hashtag for Latinos in Social Media
- Cuentame – a Facebook group geared toward Latinos
- CitySaheli – an online community for the “savvy South Asian woman”
- The Grio –a video-centric news community covering perspectives that affect the African-American community
- Social media channels are well-suited for today’s multicultural marketers because they make it easier to adjust or revise strategies and appropriately micro-target within diverse communities.
3) Embrace culture in your campaigns
- State Farm took this approach with its BollyStar Competition celebrating India’s Bollywood culture, and Pepsi has had great success with its YoSumo campaign aimed at second- and third-generation youth and young-adult Latinos. See Jessica Faye Carter’s recent post on Mashable for more examples.
4) Make an effort to connect emotionally with your target audience
- The NBA is doing this with Énebéa, a website geared toward Hispanic and Latino fans that have a strong emotional connection with Latino NBA players. The site has a special focus on Latino players and included more interviews, online chats, statistics and photo galleries than the general NBA site.
- If your company is committed and/or involved with the community it’s trying to reach, be sure to highlight related activities so your audience knows you’re genuinely invested in it. Wells Fargo is an example of a company that does this well. See Bill Imada’s recent Ad Age article on the topic.
5) Always test assumptions in focus groups before incorporating them into your marketing campaign. You won’t know if your messages strike a valid chord with consumers – regardless of their cultural identity – unless you solicit honest, objective feedback.
Studying, observing and interacting with a culture outside your own will enable you to identify and leverage similarities and differences among various consumer segments. And being culturally aware won’t just help you develop a better multicultural marketing campaign, it will also enhance your ability to engage with (and have fun with!) people across the globe.
So grab a spoon and start sipping while the soup is still hot.
Photo courtesy: chewonthat blog