Multicultural Marketing: How Inclusiveness Drives Demand

  •    Freelance journalist covering women, business, policy and social good.

In an increasingly diverse consumer market, there's never been a better time to embrace multicultural marketing opportunities.

Multicultural populations drive 84 percent of population growth, and account for 43 percent of Millennials, reports Pew Research. As a result, younger consumers are growing up in a world where multicultural marketing simply reflects their everyday experiences.

But some companies are making a big misstep in how they market to consumers of different racial and ethnic backgrounds by viewing them mainly via demographics.

Here are three tips on how small business marketing can avoid missed opportunities by embracing multicultural audiences.

View culture as a choice

Rather than a birthright, culture is a choice of how we spend our time and money, points out marketing consultant Eddie Yoon in Harvard Business Review.

For example, suburban white men consume 80 percent of hip hop music. Assuming that the market for hip hop music is only young, urban black Americans creates a missed opportunity for marketers trying to reach the broadest audience, he says.

“Culture, at its core, is a shared passion for distinct common experience. Sports, music, food, fashion, and hobbies are all culture," says Yoon. “Ethnicity is not an exclusive passport that lets you in or keeps you out of a culture."

Small business marketers can widen their appeal by being more inclusive with multicultural marketing that appeals to anyone willing to try something new. As Yoon points out: “Authenticity is great, but adaptation can be great too."

Look at demand, not demographics

To attract more customers to your small business, it's critical to understand why they're buying your product or service in the first place.

Hispanics now make up a quarter of the U.S. population, for example, and are changing the way Americans eat. In fact, salsa now outsells ketchup in the U.S. and tortillas outsell white bread, reports the Associated Press.

But while a growing Hispanic influence may have brought salsa and tortillas into the American mainstream, that's not the only reason consumers keep purchasing these foods.

It turns out that calorie-conscious parents are turning to tortillas as a healthier way to wrap kids' lunches. And salsa, with less sugar and fat and greater amounts of vegetables, now beats ketchup sales 2-1 in the U.S., reports market research firm IRI.

Healthy eating is a great selling point for these Hispanic foods – and a great example of why multicultural marketing needs to look beyond demographics to address demand as well.

Embrace a total market approach


With more Americans living in a multicultural world, it's time to include diversity in every marketing decision. In his book “The New Mainstream," Guy Garcia describes the business opportunity of America's new multicultural reality.

Today's young, highly-educated knowledge workers, “tend not only to be tolerant of communities and cultures that are not their own, but are more likely to find value in – and actively seek out – experiences and customs that add flavor, variety and diversity to their lives," Garcia says.

According to the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA), a great way to address this new mainstream is with a total market approach – a carefully crafted cross-cultural message based on a universal truth.

To convince more Millennials to open a new checking account, for example, Wells Fargo released a bilingual ad called First Paycheck. It told the story of young Hispanic woman earning her first paycheck – which Millennials can universally relate to – but also gave a nod to Hispanic cultural nuances like a multi-generational family, reports Chief Marketer.

Multicultural marketing provides a growing opportunity for small businesses to address the way U.S. consumers have changed. The new America is increasingly diverse -- no longer a single melting pot, but a mix of different cultures and experiences any consumer can relish, and any business can promote.

Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan/Creative Commons