a guide to multicultural marketing
Mar 23, 2023

Multicultural Marketing: A Marketer’s Guide to inclusive marketing

niyathi author photo
Author Niyathi Rao

For marketers, authentic audience connection is essential — no matter the industry. And the best way to make that connection is to truly understand the people you are targeting — to empathize with them, understand their challenges and speak to them in a way that makes them feel heard. This begs the question, how can you understand someone without first considering the culture of the target market? That’s where multicultural marketing comes in.

Although people within the same geographical area may have similar interests, behaviors, and needs, different cultural groups can have stark differences in their values and beliefs, struggles, and experiences. These groups may also differ in how they like to be spoken to. By better understanding cultural nuance and multicultural differences, marketers will be able to create a more effective outline for engaging with cultural audiences and mitigating the risks associated with getting it wrong. 

What is Multicultural Marketing?

Multicultural marketing is any form of marketing strategy targeting a specific cultural or ethnic group as a part of a brand’s target audience (general market). It isn’t as simple as translating ads into different languages; instead, it connects on a deeper level and fosters relatability — addressing the specific needs of a cultural background, speaking to their unique aspirations and motivations. By validating the differences between cultural subgroups brands have the opportunity to align their marketing goals with the needs of their audience and stick in the hearts and minds of multicultural consumers. This type of marketing focuses on celebrating and recognizing the differences in culture. 

Multicultural marketing should also not be confused with inclusive marketing, a tactic designed to emphasize diversity and resonate with people of all backgrounds. Although multicultural campaigns often borrow elements of inclusive marketing, their purpose is to target a specific cultural group, whereas inclusive marketing focuses on the representation of a variety of cultures at once, ensuring no one group feels left out.

What is Diversity Marketing?

Diversity marketing is a marketing activity that accounts for differences in age, religion, gender, disability, ethnicity, sexual preferences, or identity. Multicultural marketing, however, is a more specific marketing strategy that takes differences in ethnicities and cultures into account. 

Both of these marketing strategies are inclusive and result in campaigns that connect with diverse groups of people or represent them accurately. A multicultural marketing strategy, however, will also help celebrate diversity and increase brand visibility. 

Cross-culture advertising

Cross-culture advertising refers to advertising a product or a service to reach many different cultures simultaneously.
Sometimes it can be confused with multicultural advertising. Cross-culture advertising differs in that it is the process of marketing to consumers in a way that recognizes the differences in various cultures and adapts the marketing mix accordingly.

Creating a multicultural marketing strategy means taking into account different cultures, diverse segments of people, and groups into account.

Making The Case for Multicultural Marketing

The demographics of North America are changing. According to the Government of Canada, roughly 75% of Canada’s population growth comes from immigration and by 2036, immigrants will represent up to 30% of Canada’s population, compared with 20.7% in 2011.

In the US, multicultural segments (all ethnic segments except White, and Non-Hispanics), currently make up 40% of the U.S. population and are expected only to increase while the White Non-Hispanic population continues the downward trend, according to the United States Census Bureau.

Although it may be tempting for marketers to simply cast a wider net with their marketing efforts through inclusive marketing, they risk alienating audience sub-segments with a watered-down message. It simply isn’t worth the risk of trying to talk to everyone at once. For instance, according to eMarketer, 50% of Spanish-dominant and 24% of English-dominant Hispanic consumers declared themselves “much more loyal toward companies that show appreciation for [their] culture.” This means that organizations that take the time to cater to specific audiences are likely to see a higher return on their marketing investments.

Why Multicultural Marketing is Important for Businesses

Multicultural marketing is important for businesses so that they can appeal to different segments of society. This marketing strategy recognizes and celebrates the difference between multiple subgroups and engages with them in a voice they understand. A multicultural marketing strategy creates conversations that offer value for multiple regional groups and these efforts are now more important than ever due to the multiple marketing channels involved. International marketing teams need to craft their marketing message to evoke the interest of all of their various consumer segments. 

 

Increased Scope of Innovation 

With multicultural marketing, there is more scope for marketers and brands to be creative and inclusive in their campaigns. They can find new marketing strategies and be experimental with product messaging. Marketers can send customized and personalized messages to multicultural customers to help streamline processes, including translating messaging into various languages.

Deeper Market Penetration 

Many countries are becoming increasingly diverse, meaning customer bases in those countries are more multicultural than ever. Countries like Canada, USA, and The UK are home to many various ethnic and cultural groups and these groups all understand and receive messages differently. Multicultural messaging can increase sales and market share in these countries by attracting and serving these groups more effectively. 

How to do Multicultural Advertising The Right Way

Here are some best practices to follow as you build your multicultural marketing campaigns:

1. Meet your audience where they are

Multicultural marketing should always start with proper research. It’s important to ask questions like:

  • What are the concerns and aspirations of my cultural audience?
  • Have there been any recent events that could affect them?
  • Does my business fulfill the same need for this audience as it does for others?
  • What emotional triggers separate this group from others?
  • What channels best reach this multicultural segment?

Asking questions like these may seem obvious, but it is important to go through this process at the outset of each multicultural marketing campaign.

2. Examine cultural context, not just language

Although the language is an important part of any given culture, an understanding of language is not enough to inform effective multicultural marketing campaigns. Imagine that you are a new immigrant to North America; you have studied English for many years and are well-versed in the language. You still would not know that it is culturally inappropriate to talk about politics at the dinner table or to ask someone how much money they make. These cultural details may seem obvious to those who grew up around them, but failing to comprehend them can have disastrous consequences — and this is equally true when it comes to creating marketing campaigns.

3. Consider the individualism-collectivism spectrum

Different cultures can differ drastically in how much value they place on the individual versus the collective. For instance, American culture focuses heavily on individual rights and freedoms and emphasizes personal achievement and success, while for many Asian cultures, collectivism, and unity are seen as far more important. Determining where a culture sits on this spectrum will go a long way toward understanding how to position your next campaign.

4. Be aware that visuals can be interpreted differently

Largely visual marketing campaigns are usually seen as internationally applicable because translation isn’t necessary — but the risk of a misunderstanding is never zero. For instance, in western countries, a white flag is a mutually agreed upon symbol of surrender, but white is the colour of mourning in Buddhist countries. Even something as simple as colour can have a completely different meaning. Symbolic meanings can vary greatly from culture to culture, don’t take this for granted in your next multicultural marketing campaign.

5. Ensure representation in the review and decision-making process

Your review process should always include representation from your target group. You can even test your campaigns with a focus group before public release. Due diligence in review will ensure you don’t miss anything that could be misinterpreted.

Although it’s a complex topic, there has never been a better time to start multicultural marketing. If you can speak to multicultural audiences correctly and relate to them on a more personal level, you will win customer loyalty in a way that broad, one-size-fits-all marketing simply cannot.

Examples of Multicultural Marketing Strategy 

Here are some examples of inclusive marketing campaigns that break advertising norms and have strong, multicultural representation:

Adobe 

Procter & Gamble 

Nike 

 

Start Your Multicultural Marketing Journey Today

Target, engage, and connect with online multicultural audiences like never before. Our connected journey allows you to add multiple multicultural segments and create unique journeys for each. Multicultural journeys are not/should not be designed with the same pathways in mind. Mobile-first content and video messaging will ensure better consumption in a faster-paced environment.