q & a


Kimberly-Clark's Total Market Approach

Racial and ethnic minorities now comprise more than half the children born in the U.S., a seismic shift in the demographic complexion of the country. It’s a fact not lost on Kimberly-Clark. Understanding the general market was becoming increasingly multicultural, the personal care company in 2012 moved away from the industry’s traditional view of multicultural marketing — targeting individual ethnic groups — to a total market approach. Kimberly-Clark defines the approach as “active inclusion of multicultural consumers through the entire strategic process, from opportunity assessment to insights development to execution.”

Lizette Williams, multicultural marketing leader, North America, at Kimberly-Clark, says that marketing in a multicultural world requires integrating ethnic insights into all communication strategies. “The total market approach allows us to get both scale and efficiency while balancing relevance and effectiveness where it matters the most,” she notes. “As a result, brands like Huggies, Kleenex, and Kotex have shown great potential for growth.”



Williams, a featured speaker at the 2014 ANA Multicultural & Diversity Conference, Nov. 9-11 in Miami Beach, Fla., explains the key steps to implementing a holistic marketing approach, the challenges, and how Kimberly-Clark got its agencies on board.

Q. What important steps must a company take to successfully implement a total market approach? 

A. One of the most critical steps needed is organizational support across levels and functions. This is not about developing a separate department, but about focusing on how you effectively integrate diverse thinking throughout the organization. We have a fantastic Multicultural Task Force of about 20 brand builders — from brand marketers to field shopper marketers to researchers and beyond — who have worked to evangelize total market thinking throughout K-C. This approach also requires changing the way you do standard work across the end-to-end, strategic go-to-market process. We diagnose everything, from how we do consumer research at the inception of an idea to the execution of the idea at the shelf.

Q. Has the structure and/or dynamic of your marketing organization changed to support a more holistic marketing approach?

A. Yes. Many teams on our core, ethnically focused businesses now have a point of contact who also serves on the Multicultural Task Force. They still have bottom-line responsibility to grow their brands, but now they are also tasked with understanding multicultural consumers. We are lucky to have an amazing CMO, Clive Sirkin, who fully supports this total market thinking. He has tasked the Multicultural Task Force with building organizational capability, building individual competency in our brand builders, and enabling the brand teams to execute their strategies with excellence. The vision is to equip every brand builder at K-C with the tools and resources to truly excel at marketing in a multicultural world. This is a journey for us, but we are well on our way.

Q. How are you measuring the impact of your total market approach? Has that been challenging? Are there other challenges marketers should keep in mind?

A. We continue to use standard measures of brand health, such as share and sales across ethnic/total markets, and also look at measures of brand equity. One of the key challenges is to understand that this is a long-term investment in an organization’s future, and it may not necessarily produce huge incremental results in one period after a single program. We are building a sustainable foundation by developing a relationship with diverse consumers, and it will pay off, but the potential of the full impact may not be immediate. There is no denying that multicultural consumers are the most brand loyal, but the development of that relationship can take time. ROI, in particular, becomes a challenging measure.

Let’s be honest, the ROI for Hispanic campaigns tends to be lower. That’s because the ROI often only accounts for Spanish language creative and doesn’t weigh the impact of English language creative on Hispanic sales. A total market approach is language-agnostic and recognizes the diversity within Hispanic and multicultural communities that span language preferences. An ROI is also a snapshot of the past instead of a forecast for the future. That’s why it is also important to weigh equity measures that can point to your brand health, in addition to looking at the growing multicultural demographics within your target segment.

Q. How did you get your agency partners on board and establish a more collaborative spirit?

A. We have some fantastic agency partners that have been true allies in the journey with us. Shortly after I started at K-C in 2012, one of the first things we did was get all the agencies in a room for a two-day session. We mapped out our current process and identified opportunities for optimization in terms of collaborating and getting us to a single national idea that would resonate across the market. Aligning to a single vision focused on growing the business was critical, and it allowed us to optimize our approach and increase collaboration across our agencies.

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