Marketing consultant Len Fong shares his holistic approach to Multicultural marketing. As Corporate America moves away from the illusion of mass marketing and into the realities of niche marketing, multicultural marketing becomes more and more important in helping advertisers gain market share and incremental revenues.
The 2000 Census confirms what multicultural marketing practitioners have known for a long time that U.S. ethnic consumers who have more than a trillion dollars in combined buying power cannot and will not be ignored. And multinational companies such as AT&T, Citibank, Ford, McDonald's, Proctor & Gamble and many others have taken notice by spending millions of dollars developing advertising messages that try to capture the hearts and minds of African Americans, Latinos, and Asian American consumers.
But are advertisers doing an effective job targeting these diverse audiences? The answer is "yes and no." Yes, they are doing much better than they did a decade ago. And no, they are not doing everything they can to capture the full spectrum of the growing ethnic markets. Many companies are still targeting ethnic consumers as if their entire purchasing experience exists in a static point in time. This is especially true when targeting foreign-born consumers that make up the majority of ethnic consumers in the U.S. Rarely do companies take into account the pre-America consumer experience inherent in every newly arrived immigrant to the U.S. What's needed is a more comprehensive way of addressing the needs and wants of the multi-lingual, mutli-ethnic consumer.
The time has come for a more holistic approach to multicultural marketing. One that takes into account that ethnic consumers do not live in a vacuum and do not adopt new buying habits overnight. An approach that acknowledges the influences of spending patterns from their homelands. And that social acculturation is intricately tied to product consumption behavior.
Imagine being able to track nomadic consumers as they cross geographic boundaries over the course of their lifetimes. Multinational companies are in an enviable position to capitalize on this "cradle to grave" approach. In today's global economy, advertisers need to leverage the breadth and depth of their global offices to offer useable market intelligence to every office within their network. Time and space is not an excusable obstacle in preventing a company from sustaining brand loyalty and global market share.
Companies that continue to leverage on global market intelligence can often predict consumer behavior while protecting its global market share from opportunistic competitors. So why does a company like Colgate-Palmolive, which dominates the toothpaste market in many parts of Asia spend next to nothing in targeting the recent Asian immigrant groups to the U.S.? One would think that Colgate would want to protect their global market share from the likes of Crest. And the same goes for Coke and their battle with Pepsi. Or McDonald's and their competition with Burger King.
It's a brave new world we now live in. What happens in one part of the world affects every other part of the world in profound ways. Global products and services marketed and branded in Asia or Latin America influences the way they are perceived by newly arrived immigrant groups to the U.S. Every ethnic group has "brand baggage" that can be leveraged to build on existing buying preferences. U.S. multinational companies that embrace the holistic brand experience of nomadic consumers will be the ones to reap the rewards of the new world economy. Whoever said that holistic medicine is bad for you never tasted the flavor of global brand loyalty. Its an alternative whose time has come.