By Toni Carey (@toni_carey)
Reaching minorities doesn’t mean that you have to employ a hip-hip icon or Hispanic movie star – but you do need to know who you’re trying to reach.
Several weeks ago, I explored how mainstream America is finally noticing the influence and buying power of the nation’s growing minority population. While targeting minorities may seem an obvious choice for some companies, many are still having a tough time determining how to reach such a coveted segment of the population.
That being said, where are minorities and what is the best way to reach them? Here are some helpful hints:
Get to know (and understand) your audience: The “one size fits all approach” does not work for minorities. In Building Brand Authenticity: 7 Habits of Iconic Brands, author Mike Beverland suggests market immersion instead of market research. Meaning that brands should consider employing minority consumers within its business, experiment with new products and, maybe most importantly take the consumer on a journey by getting their feedback in the early stages of product development. This may seem simple, but few brands truly immerse themselves in the culture they are targeting. Do you truly understand their culture? Do they drive or follow popular culture? Are you listening to what they are listening to? It doesn’t mean that you have to change your brand, but it does mean that you are sensitive to be aware of their thoughts and passions.
Be authentic: Beverland also writes that brand authenticity leads to critical differentiation, increased purchased intentions and word-of-mouth support. But in order be effective, it’s important to understand that authenticity is built using three key steps:
- Building product quality,
- Establishing a strong reputation based on heritage or historical narrative
- Being sincere and identifying your moral crusade.
African-Americans and Hispanics have a colorful history and embrace brands that have the same. Own your history and put a stake in what you believe it. Consumers will appreciate you for and will more easily identify with your brand.
Talk to them, not at them: In other words, engage in conversation. That means not being afraid to ask questions, such as what your company is doing right or wrong. Many companies don’t have enough humility to not only ask, but listen and take action based on customer feedback. Social media sites are great way to get a pulse of what your target audience is thinking or wants. (Twitter is a great platform to do this. Minority Internet users are twice as likely to use Twitter than their white counterparts). Not to mention their attitude toward social media is starkly different, which was evident during the 2008 election campaign. But being online and listening isn’t enough. You need to respond and be genuine. If you make promises, be sure to follow through.
Go mobile, and they will come: African-Americans spent $9.4 billion in 2009 on mobile phones, yet only 27 percent of white mobile users own a smartphone. So who owns smartphones? Minorities. This doesn’t mean you have to create a mobile app, but it does mean that your website needs to be mobile friendly. While texting has taken a backseat to apps, it will re-emerge as a major communications tool, as seen by all the excitement generated by group texting apps like GroupMe at SXSW. In addition, texting is one of the primary vehicles to reach minorities. Seventy percent of all African-Americans and English speaking Latinos use text message versus over half of whites.
Bloggers are your friends (and best brand advocate): Bloggers have become a trusted news source and if you choose to dismiss them, you’re missing out. African-Americans and Hispanics naturally form their own communities so when their looking for information about products, they’re more likely to look to their community or peers as resources. This is especially true when researching healthcare information. Involving bloggers in product development, asking them to give input on a product or including them in marketing/advertising efforts, are just a few ways to use bloggers as brand ambassadors. Huetiful Hair Steamer does an excellent job incorporating bloggers into the marketing efforts by sending bloggers product to try, encouraging them to blog and vlog their experience with the steamer and employing them in advertising campaigns. The third party endorsement that the company receives from bloggers has increased their brand awareness and essentially allowed their product to go viral.
By keeping your brand authentic, creating targeted messages and focusing on engagement, your brand can reach minorities and help create a new wave of consumers that are sure to dominate the market.