[NOTE: This is an online-only sidebar to the March 2008 CRM cover story, "The Markets Within the Masses."]
According to Valerie Romley, author and chief research officer at San Francisco-based Moving Target Research Group, primary research in the multicultural markets needs to be face-to-face. Marketers should know how the consumers are using the products in real time, how they live their lives in real time -- only then, she says, "can we capture the nuances that [relate to] their culture and their history, and the context of their history and how that affects their perceptions." As a researcher, Romley is often out of the office and in the field, observing people in their homes or following them through their daily activities. She literally sees how they interact with certain products.
Other researchers, such as Forrester analyst Tamara Barber, go in the field to run qualitative surveys approximately three times a year. Barber focuses primarily on the Hispanic market, a project that Forrester launched in 2005 in response to the rising demand of its clients wanting a better understanding of these consumers. She recognizes that obtaining information about multicultural markets is significantly more difficult than that of the general population. Moreover, she says, "There's a lot more work put into building the case for investing further into a smaller niche market."
So if no group can be considered homogeneous, to what extent should you invest in breaking down your market? First of all, you have to really understand where your highest revenue stream is coming from. "MSN, Yahoo!, Telemundo, are focused very specifically on the Hispanic market. That's their bread and butter. That's where they're interested in and where they're spending all their research dollars," Barber says. Sprint realized the same thing as it brought together the multicultural marketing team, the sponsorship team, the agency, as well as senior level management in a collaborative effort that brought about the final campaign. Basing every decision on research, they discussed every element from what type of artist, what type of personality, what type of work, and what type of appeal they wanted.
The next step is a bit more challenging. "Marketers need to break it down until they hit the emotional core," Romley says. "Until they make an emotional connection with the consumer, they're not going to inspire loyalty or share of wallet," she adds. Companies like Target and Apple have inspired fervent followings, Romley says, who herself can't help but go onto her third iPod, after the past two have broken. In a study on the African American consumer, Campbell found that participants would forgive Coke if it ever made a mistake. Their loyalty allowed them to see it as the fault of the individual, not the company.
Luckily for marketers, there are tons of research firms who provide information about multicultural markets. Many multicultural advertising agencies are highly specialized in targeting specific markets, and some are one-stop shops. Furthermore, software can help as well. New Jersey-based Ethnic Technologies (E-Tech) provides a multicultural marketing and research tool for clients interested in contacting people by ethnicity, religion, language preference, country of origin, and assimilation index, explains Candace Kennedy, director of sales and marketing at E-Tech. Covering over 170 ethnicities, 12 religions, and 80 languages, E-Tech uses an inferred system that not only protects the privacy of individuals, but claims to have 95 percent accuracy rate based on opt out rates and feedback from end users and site licenses. In fact, Kennedy says they like to think they take the error out of the U.S. Census.
E-Tech conducts daily research on first names, last names, middle names, prefix and suffixes of names, as well as geography, of people across the entire country to ensure that their database is up to date. Clients can either purchase the software for $180,000, plus the annual maintenance fee, or send their lists to E-Tech to be enhanced and corrected. While E-Tech does not tell marketers how to target their messages, they do play a critical role during the analytics phase. For instance, Kennedy describes how if E-Tech's results indicate that 30 percent of your client base should be African American but you're only seeing 10 percent, you may need to tweak your campaign to optimize your return. She reports that clients who typically saw one to 1.5 percent in response rates, now see a significant boost of four percent after committing to "smart targeting."
And before launching a campaign targeting Chinese-speaking audiences for Wal-Mart, Nita Song, president of Asian American advertising agency IW Group, needed to test out the new taglines. She brought the campaigns to multiple cities and presented them to both Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking focus groups of 12 to 15 people. Each group was brought to a designated facility where they spent two hours reviewing a variety of campaigns. All the feedback was collected and put into consideration before launching the final campaign.
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