By Lauren Dichter, Marketing Coordinator for Heinz Marketing

Multicultural marketing. Diversity marketing. Ethnic marketing. International marketing. Global marketing. Diaspora marketing.

What do all these phrases have in common?

Well, for the most part, they can all be boiled down to a single concept. But they’re not the same. So what makes them unique?

The variation in words creates slight changes in the precise meaning behind each phrase. By now, you might be wondering, what’s the point of this little language exercise?

Glad you asked! The point is…

At the end of the day, there are only slight differences in what motivates diverse groups of people.

However, there are real reasons for why these slight differences exist today, and those truths shouldn’t be ignored—not in life, and not in business. Doing so would be unwise.

To know your prospects well enough to attract them, you have to study what makes them who they are. You must gather data that will help you figure out what your target market wants or needs. After putting on your anthropology hat in the hopes of determining why people think and behave the way they do, there’s only one thing left to do: come up with a plan.

But not just any old plan; a multicultural marketing plan.

By appealing to the nuances that color our cultures and subcultures, we can develop targeted campaigns that attract particular people to our organizations. Use the steps below to guide your first foray into the wonderful world of multicultural marketing

Step 1: Understand the definition of a multicultural consumer

First things first. You must grasp what is meant by the term “multicultural consumer” in order to guide you in the next step: research.

According to the US Census Bureau, a multicultural consumer is someone who identifies as Hispanic, African American, Asian, Native American, or as two or more races. However, the term has grown to encompass anybody outside of the country’s majority culture. Jewish, Muslim, and LGBTQA communities, for example, would fall under the term “multicultural consumer” in the United States. Since culture is much more than just race or ethnicity, the term includes minority religions and sexual orientations as well.

Moreover, multicultural consumers are typically younger. In 2017, 42% of American millennials identified as multicultural, and the group is invariably growing. Additionally, 53% of Generation Z identify as multicultural. While you decide who to target and how, keep in mind that age will also play a role in how these individuals think and act as consumers. Millennials are defined by their affinity for technology, so technology is the ideal medium for reaching these multicultural consumers.

Now that you understand the basics of what constitutes a multicultural consumer, it’s time to dig a bit deeper with step 2.

Step 2: Research

This may be the most important step of all. The biggest mistake you could make in preparing a multicultural marketing campaign is assuming things about minority groups and working off that, instead of conducting thorough research.

In this situation, passing judgement without actual facts to back it up is not only risky for your business; it’s also dangerously comparable to racism, however unintentional it may be. To avoid a multicultural campaign that performs poorly—or, at worst, comes off as ignorant—you’ve got to compile data that tells a nuanced story of your target market.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a multicultural marketing strategy, which means accurate research is critical. Although each cultural group is distinct, what’s true about mostly all minorities is that they seek connection to their roots. Studies and surveys have found that the strongest way Hispanics connect with their culture is through music; for African Americans, it’s family; and for Asians, it’s food.

Of course, those aren’t the only ways to appeal to each group; in fact, there can be large disparities between subcultures within each larger culture. For example, a person who is ethnically Peruvian but is a 2nd or 3rd generation American might not even speak Spanish, and almost certainly doesn’t speak Quechua or Aymara. Whereas a Peruvian immigrant in the United States might struggle with English but feel right at home with one or more of the languages of their homeland. Minority groups are comprised of people with varying levels of acculturation, which can greatly impact the effectiveness of a certain type of ad.

Employing your target audience’s preferred or first language is invaluable, because it immediately makes the prospect comfortable and thus more likely to connect with your product or company as a whole. Language and identity are intimately tied.

But language isn’t enough on its own. You should also research specific cultures’ communication styles, social norms, and common phrases.

David Megarry, VP of Corporate Sales at VIA—a company that creates multilingual business solutions—explains it best:

“Opportunities for faux pas abound. Even when properly translated with impeccable grammar, your copy might inadvertently contain humor, idioms, puns, analogies or metaphors that confuse or offend your target audience… A proper focus on cultural adaptation will help you avoid having to rework campaigns—and, more important, wasting effort and losing credibility with your audience.”

On top of researching your target market’s heritage and how they connect with it, it’s imperative to research their most widely used mediums of communication. In this way, you can ensure that your marketing materials will be seen by their intended audience.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! We’ll revisit distribution in Step 5. Now onto Step 3, where it gets really real.

Step 3: Plan

You’ve got all the data you need at this point, so now it’s time to decide how to make the best use of it.

This is the step where you figure out how you’re going to demonstrate your product, service, or company so it resonates strongly with the campaign’s intended audience. It’s where you come up with creative ways to communicate the message. And finally, it’s also where you flesh out a production schedule that shows what days/time each component of the campaign will launch, which channel it will launch through, what language it will be in, and so on.

Since this is the last step before launching, take it seriously. But because the goal is to relate your product or company to a unique consumer group, have fun with it too! Get everyone together for a brainstorming session, but only settle on ideas that truly make sense given the market research you’ve either read up on or conducted yourself.

Take timing into account. Holidays, festivals, and other cultural celebrations are a great vehicle for connecting with your target audiences. These festivities have a special ability to bring people together and stir up positive emotions; which, in the multicultural marketer’s case, means the target audience will be more receptive to nuanced messaging. Ethnic festivities provide a prime opportunity to relay your message in an extremely impactful way.

So consider sponsoring an ethnic event, even if it has to be a grassroots marketing campaign. More often than not, marketing campaigns with smaller scopes see the most success, especially in terms of generating actual conversions.

Now that you’ve hashed out all the best strategies for reaching your target market, it’s time to get that campaign train rollin’.

Step 4: Execute

Have reviewers on deck to look over content, either to identify what could result in linguistic or cultural snafus, or to make adjustments that could improve the effectiveness of the message. Bilingual employees are a great resource to have on your team in general, but their skillset is highly suited to this phase of the process.

Even if this person is in the IT department at your company, their insight is necessary to execute the most effective campaign possible.  That said, be sure to respect their time; since they have other duties, it’s important to let them know when they will have to review content by. If you determine deadlines and communicate them to all involved in a timely manner, the multicultural marketing campaign should go off without a hitch.

Step 5: Distribute

Are your marketing materials going to be in print, online, or both? Is social media appropriate? What about non-traditional media formats, like dollar van ads, or community partnerships?

From the information you gathered in the research phase, you should be able to identify the channels that will reach your target audience with a balanced combination of efficiency and effectiveness. One campaign might thrive on TV ads, while another requires you to advertise on a grassroots level; in other words, to meet people where they are.

There is no universal set of media or channels that are ideal for successful multicultural marketing campaigns. Each culture and subculture have their preferred or most widely used channels, and it’s up to you to uncover them.

After launching your multicultural marketing campaign, reflect on whether it was well informed, thoroughly thought-out, executed with precision and distributed strategically. Just one perfect campaign could finally put your company on the map by increasing brand awareness in key demographics. And if your company is already on the map, a great campaign could wildly expand your market share.

With a fine-tuned multicultural marketing strategy in place, growth is undeniable.

Have you tried reaching multicultural consumers? Comment below to share your experience!