'Total Market' For U.S. Transition

When I moved to the U.S. in 2008, the number of applications for working visas had dropped by more than 60%, and we felt like we were in the eye of the financial crisis hurricane. I was sort of familiar with it, you know, Brazil is always in crisis, right? But the financial crisis in the U.S. not only changed immigration matters, it caused a tectonic change in the way people do business in the U.S., and obviously it changed the communication industry.

We saw budgets shrinking, clients complaining, clients being fired, agency people being fired, and eventually some agencies had to close their doors. It was bad! I’m sure you all remember how hard it was.

But then, the ones that survived the crisis had to practically rewrite their playbook. It was a new time and we had to evolve to stay relevant and in business.



I guess I can say it was the end of “advertising as we knew it” … measurement and ROI became more important than ever, and marketers and agencies worked together to find new ways to get the work done: meaning more work, less money and a lot of pressure (on both sides) for greater results. 

Then, in 2010, another big event hit America. The Census results confirmed that the nation's minorities were becoming a majority. The vast majority of America's largest urban counties are already majority-minority, defined by the Census Bureau as containing a majority of people who identify themselves in a category other than "non-Hispanic White" alone.

So, the reason I’m telling these two stories is because I do believe that “total market” is the product of a country that is in transformation, both from financial and demographic standpoints. 

And what is the risk of changing the way we approach the ethnic market when this change is being pushed by financial issues? It is to look at total market as an excuse to cut budgets to gain efficiency. 

People are becoming skeptical about it. They say, “Whenever a client comes to me talking about total market, I tell him, 'How much do you want to cut?'” Does it have to be this way? I don't think so. 

A total market approach can be implemented in a comprehensive manner to yield not only cost savings, but also in-market results. How? Three things that to consider. 

1. Market segmentation was developed with one goal: achieve higher effectiveness by addressing different audiences and understanding their needs, expectations and values. There is no “one size fits all” anymore. I know that differences in economic status, brand awareness and household composition mean that the marketing problem that needs to be overcome is different among different ethnicities. So, one common total market communication solution will not solve these different problems.

2. Total market strategies should be developed not by demographic or ethnicity, but rather by shared behaviors and attitudes. That’s how I believe total market can be effective.  

3. Total market approach must be applied during marketing strategy development when decisions are made on market segmentation and not during the communications strategy and creative development process because then it will be too late.

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