Marketing in a Multicultural America: The Importance of Culturally Relevant Advertising

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The U.S. Census Bureau as projected the population to be 44% multicultural by 2030. Studies show that culturally relevant ads have up to 3x increased brand perception, ad effectiveness, and purchase intent scores.

For brands to future-proof themselves, they should understand the importance of culturally relevant advertising.

To discuss this, Adweek brought together a panel of key experts, including MediaCom's Ronald Méndez, Managing Partner & Multicultural Lead; Timm Chiusano, Vice President of Kernel Creative; Carlos Santiago, Co-Founder and Board Member of AIMM/ Chief Strategist at Santiago Solutions Group; Nakia Clements, Chief Media Officer at Decoded.

This past year was a tipping point in more ways than one. Multicultural consumers represent $3.9 trillion in purchasing power with a median age of 38. This young, multicultural generation will continue to be the face of America. They are the focal point for this panel discussion on how to gain resonance in a multicultural world. The below elaborates on the critical themes that all hinge upon authenticity and understanding.

The panel discussion can be found here, and discussion slides here.

The most critical part of reaching a multicultural audience is authenticity

In today's climate, we expect a deeper level of authenticity from brands. To be truly authentic, one should be aware of the cultural events, tone, context, etc., of the world around us.

One of the first steps towards authenticity is the representation of a multicultural audience in ads, but as Carlos and Ron explained, there is much more to it than just that. We need to be aware of and draw out cultural insights – these insights will directly impact measurement and bring authenticity to life.

Consumers desire accurate representation in the richness and the context of their family structure and identity. For example, one of Ron's clients portrayed the immediate family and not the extended family in an advertisement. When the Hispanic audience saw this ad, they immediately asked, "where is everyone else – Grandma and Grandpa?" Sprinkling in additional elements of the everyday reality – more kids, multigeneration households, etc. – helped improve the authenticity and relevance.

This example underscores the importance of going beyond just language or representation in an ad (though necessary) and steps into the micro understanding of the audiences' everyday realities. Ads that reflect these realities will be more likely to succeed.

Understanding multicultural nuances in media communications is vital

It starts with the consumer and understanding who they are. As Nakia articulated, "as brands, we can no longer afford to be in a place of not knowing; we must prioritize and understand all customers equally."

We are challenged today with understanding the nuances – what channels are multicultural audiences gravitating towards? What is the role of media? What is the role of language? We must layer in these nuances to our communication plans to ensure that we are capturing the consumers where they are. As Ron stated, "it is no longer a one size fits all."

We need to develop ads and a media plan that can go beyond reach and create a deeper connection that resonates culturally. Everyone is accountable for understanding these nuances and aligning brand values with multicultural values. In this intersect, brands will come from a place of authority and knowledge to gain resonance.

2020 showed significant progress with brands and marketers taking action to tackle systemic inequalities; as we move into 2021 and beyond, this will only continue and grow

Across the board, we see brands and marketers trying to understand the multicultural nuances and gain a deeper understanding of their consumers.

Ron pointed out that we've had to battle several misconceptions about the multicultural audience over the years that seem to be dissolving now. For instance, brands tended to think that running a multicultural campaign meant running media during Pride, Black History, or Hispanic Heritage Months. Brands now seem to be grasping that it is about consistency and authenticity when reaching these audiences.

It is not going to be overnight that these changes occur. Start with the audience segments that your brand already has equity with and then slowly and intentionally build in more diverse segments. It is a process; how we do it is the next frontier.

Test and invest in the multicultural audience continually

Make sure your brand is adequately testing and investing in various audiences. Under-investing in diverse cultural audiences will put a brand at risk of stagnation and not allow for new ROI, insights, and learnings compared to the general market. Ron shared, "You are not testing the audience. You are testing how you are engaging with the audience." If the results were not what you expected, then there is a need to go back to the drawing board and make optimizations and test again. The earlier in the process that you can start testing and infuse multicultural insights into your strategy and creative, the soon you can increase purchase intent and make the brand more sustainable.

Diversity of thought is critical in every aspect

Diversity of thought allows you to have different perspectives. The more diverse your audience is, the more views you will get in all aspects. Nakia stated, "hiring a bunch of diverse looking people does not solve the problem. What you need is to start with accountably in understanding your audience and serving them." The success of the team is able to work together to grow, learn and evolve.

Every person on the team must have accountability and a desire to understand -- this is critical for your business. We must be willing and open to ask the right questions, and by doing so, we get to know the audience.

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