As marketers, we have traditionally been tasked with prioritizing marketing budgets to focus on the general market audience, leaving little to nothing left for reaching multicultural consumers. This is a false choice, writes Sherina Smith, vice-president of marketing at American Family Insurance. Here’s what marketers need to do now to succeed in the moment and in the future.
It wasn’t that long ago that, as marketers, we were focused on the dominant culture. We weren’t forced to choose between spending on general or multicultural audiences. But now we must choose one.
The choice is an increasingly easier one as multicultural consumers are the cornerstones of growth. They are younger, digitally savvy, trendsetters and tastemakers. We must bust the myth that culture is always created by dominant culture. Black and brown communities have long been a key driver to pop culture and setting trends that resonate broadly. Reaching this consumer in an authentic and relevant way often results in reaching all consumers. As marketers, we should lean into these groups because as challenger brands, it actually can be a way to make dollars go further.
Instead of being asked to prioritize or choose, we should be asking the question, how can we double down on these audiences?
When marketers are asked to reduce or minimize their marketing dollars targeting Hispanic and Black consumers, they are effectively being asked to forgo growth opportunities for the brand. The truth is, 100% of population growth from 2010 to 2020 was driven by people of color, comprising approximately 40% of the US population. Spending power of Black Americans has consistently increased by 5% annually for the past 20 years, compared to white households at 3%. And Hispanic buying power stands at $1.7tn (yes, trillion).
They are in the prime ‘consumption age,’ starting families and building careers. They are connected to their heritage and socially conscious with an expectation that brands will value them and share their values.
To reach this consumer:
Brands must go beyond the stereotypical tropes. These consumers have grown up in a world of personalization and expect to be seen as individuals with nuanced lived experiences. Media plans must be built with creative targeted to the audience. ‘One size fits all’ doesn’t fit all anymore.
Stop expecting audiences to find themselves in the work and start showing them reflected in the work. ‘Multicultural marketing’ is more than simply translating campaigns into a foreign language based on a dominant culture insight, or changing the color of the people in the commercial like crayons in a box.
They want brands that are committed to diversity, not just commercializing it. That means representation across the full marketing ecosystem, behind the camera and in front of it. And staying committed to the work beyond heritage months.
Lastly, this consumer wants and deserves to be seen. Move beyond the expectations of dominant culture gaze and create work that recognizes the evolution of their journey as key stakeholders in the Now America.
The result will be breakthrough creative that builds brand value with a growing consumer group, increased brand recall for optimized full-funnel performance and market expansion with sustainable growth.
Sherina Smith is vice-president of marketing at American Family Insurance, a company whose mission is to inspire, protect and restore dreams.