Social Shifts Drive Multicultural Marketing

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With the economic power of minorities constantly in flux, brands have had to adapt their campaigns and take a much more multicultural approach to content-based marketing. Hispanic buying power, for one, increased from $491 billion in 2000 to $1.2 trillion in 2013, according to a recent Packaged Facts report. And despite the most recent economic recession and growing unemployment, Hispanics have become more socially mobile, rising consistently in socioeconomic status. High school graduation rates have increased by 10 percent, and college graduation rates have grown by 4 percent since 2000, the report shows.

With growing incomes, as well as higher levels of education and access to new opportunities, minority groups are changing their buying behaviors. Yet marketers continue to miss opportunities to reach out to a ripe population of potential buyers. While Pew Research Center findings have demonstrated that black Americans make up a large share of Twitter users in the U.S.—more than 26 percent—the social network lacks a demographic targeting tool that allows brands to target ads based on race. Twitter is not alone in its missed opportunity.

According to Marla Skiko, director of digital innovation at SMG Multicultural, a division of Starcom MediaVest Group, there is "a huge interest in how to reach [ethnic minorities] digitally."

"What still remains," she adds, "is how to do that well."

Marketing with a multicultural mindset

One of the main reasons that marketers don't target and connect with minorities is that a multicultural approach is often an afterthought—a strategy that marketers don't consider fundamental. "Incorporating the multicultural consumer into the overall brand strategy is key," Alex Frias, cofounder of Track Marketing Group, a brand experience agency, wrote in a post for Forbes.

Frias suggests making multiculturalism a central aspect of marketing, and focusing on ensuring that visual elements look consistent enough to resonate through a multicultural lens and that the core brand essence and symbolism carry over in translation. In addition, he recommends looking for cultural milestones or other significant dates to avoid "minimizing or missing out on a cultural celebration or milestone that would help us speak to multicultural consumers on their terms."

Frias also cautions marketers against oversimplifying the meaning of multicultural. Though it's tempting to define the idea of multicultural marketing as marketing to African-American consumers, and, more recently, Hispanics, it's important to remain relevant across many cultures, not just one or two.

Some of the fastest growing European countries in 2013 were Eastern European nations including Georgia, Moldova, Kosovo, Turkey, and Ukraine, a Euromonitor International report showed.

Given the high level of European integration that Eastern European states had been pursuing prior to the eurozone sovereign debt crisis, many expected these developing states to be disproportionately affected by the crisis, the report states. "However, despite relying on the eurozone as a main source of capital and as their biggest export markets, these Eastern European economies have seen an upturn in growth levels," Hilary Walsh, analyst at Euromonitor International, explains.

Arabic is one of the fastest growing and most lucrative markets on the Web, with more than 300 million native speakers, yet only four out of the top 100 Internet companies have Arabic Web sites, according to a recent Common Sense Advisory study.

Still, despite their growth, many budding markets where English is uncommon are being overlooked, and wrongfully so. "[Though a few select groups] have gotten all of the media attention and marketing dollars, we can't forget about the social influence and buying power that other communities wield," Frias says.

Leveraging language to connect with customers

Regardless of race or ethnicity, one of the most effective ways to market across cultures is connecting with consumers in their native tongue. A recent European Union study indicates that only around 18 percent of Web users feel comfortable purchasing in a non-native

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