Marketing Cannes Lions Twitter

Wake up call: Why brands failing to engage with multicultural consumers are doomed to fail

By Nuria Santamaria, multicultural and digital strategist

June 23, 2015 | 4 min read

Brands failing to engage with multicultural consumers are doomed to fail, according to Twitter’s Nuria Santamaria, who says drawing insights from consumer groups previously viewed as an ‘afterthought’ is key to brand success.

Mexican singer-songwriter Thalía

The multicultural demographic in the US is growing. Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans, groups that we recognise as a minority, now represent the majority of the population. According to the census, that’s going to happen in the year 2043, which is just around the corner. Within those three groups Hispanics will be the largest group by far, and by 2050, one in every three Americans is going to be of Hispanic origin.

These are changing demographics that our advertisers are aware of – just facts that they can’t ignore. They need to be able to focus on these consumer groups to be successful today and to be relevant in the future. That’s an important focus for advertisers, and by default it has to become an important focus for Twitter as well.

Culturally relevant content is definitely becoming more important as a means of engaging with consumers in a meaningful and effective way. Broadly, culturally relevant content refers to creating content that’s going to address the needs and the preferences of each consumer group. Advertisers know that multicultural consumers are over-indexing on mobile use and digital video consumption as well, so the combination of those two things is very powerful.

For example, Macy’s recently partnered with Mexican singer-songwriter Thalía (pictured) to create a line of apparel to reach Latina consumers in the US. They knew Latina consumers are very active and responsive to brand messages on Twitter, so they used the platform to connect with them, promoting the launch of the apparel line with 15 and 30-second video spots.

One of the challenges for brands looking to engage with multicultural consumer groups is creating a mental shift away from viewing these groups as an afterthought. Knowing how large those populations are now, understanding the spending power and also understanding the influence that they have on the rest of mainstream America, requires a change in thinking. When budgets get cut, the first budgets that go are the ones for these markets, and given the importance of multicultural consumers, I hope that budgets are properly allocated in future.

Brands are now starting to think holistically about these markets. They’re thinking about these consumers and they’re infusing campaigns with multicultural insight from the very beginning. And that takes a shift in the way in which the organisation is set up – no longer in silos but more integrated.

It also has implications on how brands work with their agencies – where before they might have had a multicultural agency focus on that consumer segment, now it requires more collaboration across their entire set of partner agencies to make sure that everything they are doing is in response to how their consumer looks today – and that consumer is very multicultural.

Another challenge we’ve seen is a lack of diversity within the client and the agency; people that have the experience in the marketplace, that really understand the consumer and that are going to make the best decisions that will better target their consumer segment. Sometimes, people that represent those backgrounds just aren’t represented at the table.

The coming years are going to be critical for brands. Across industries, advertisers are going to see the impact of not focusing on these consumer groups. Some brands are getting ahead of this and are changing the way they do business, and others are lagging – and those companies are really going to see an impact to their business. There are definitely going to be some big wake up calls.

The above is based on a conversation between The Drum and Nuria Santamaria

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