Moving Multicultural Out of The Silos

Corporate America is increasingly undertaking enterprise-level initiatives to move multicultural market considerations from a segment-driven consideration into their core business operations. Market realities are driving this trend: the growth of multicultural populations, their spending power and the projections they will drive a majority of market growth in many industries. A glimpse at the demographic profile of the coveted Millennial population brings this market imperative into focus: Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians make up 41% of all Millennials in the U.S. 

Marketing is often the “tip of the spear” for these massive corporate efforts, and appropriately so. Marketing is all about creating customer-led demand. Ironically, many organizations have created multicultural departments, “centers of excellence”, or diversity functions, which have been given responsibility for mainstreaming multicultural. 

Total Market Is a First, Awkward Step towards Bigger Changes to Come



The Total Market Approach has been one of the first manifestations of this trend within marketing. I do not believe that the Total Market Approach is a nefarious attempt to marginalize ethnic advertising agencies, eliminate segmented multicultural marketing efforts, or obfuscate cost-cutting efforts. Instead, I see it as an honest experiment by thoughtful and well-intentioned organizations looking to fundamentally redefine multicultural marketing within their organizations. However, I do not view the Total Market Approach as a long-term model. Debating the merits of the total market approach misses this most important point: marketing at the highest levels must change.

Marketing Must Change as Massive Demographic Shifts Reshape America 

The demographic makeup of Millennials provides a snapshot of today’s multicultural marketplace. However, the coming generation provides a better glimpse into the future of the America and how marketing has to change. Gen Z is the first generation in American history to be almost majority minority (47%). But Gen Z will change multicultural marketing in more profound ways. Hispanics make up 23% of Gen Z, but 91% are native-born and only 24% speak Spanish. Future immigration into the U.S. may change Gen Z, but projections point to educated, wealthier Asians driving most immigration into Gen Z. Gen Z is also 5% mixed race, the highest in history 

A Marketing Industry Focused on “Differences” Will Never Solve These Big Marketing Challenges 

Companies are turning to multicultural marketing and diversity experts to help solve the immense marketing challenge of taking multicultural efforts to the enterprise. Unfortunately, most of these experts — whether marketers, researchers, or diversity experts — bring a bias and fundamentally flawed frame of reference to this new multicultural world. For the last 50+ years, multicultural marketing and diversity specialists have made a living focused on identifying and leveraging the differences between the “mainstream” and ethnic minorities. As Gen Z comes into better focus, it’s clear that this model will not work. 

The Solutions Lie in Shifting towards a Framework that Identifies and Leverages Similarities

A new multicultural marketing perspective must be embraced to move multicultural from silos and evolve marketing to meet the seismic changes Gen Z will usher in. This new approach should start with identifying and leveraging the similarities between cultural segments reflecting the new reality that culture no longer exists in the silo of ethnicity. This new approach is exemplified by “polyculturalism,” a model introduced by The Futures Company. Polyculturalism replaces the outdated concept of acculturation by describing and measuring the extent to which consumers balance multiple different cultures. While polyculturalism may ultimately give way to new models, it moves the industry towards a cross-cultural approach that effectively breaks down the silos of multicultural marketing.

4 comments about "Moving Multicultural Out of The Silos".
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  1. Jackie Bird from Redbean Society, LLC, June 4, 2015 at 10:41 a.m.

    100% right, Jose. Yet so difficult for U.S. corporations to address this conundrum because a cross culturally-driven Marketing Integration must be conceived from the inside-out. It requires not only a reorganization of internal structure which is a huge operational task, but a recognition that culture and experiences are the key drivers of consumer behavior today. Seguimos!!!

  2. cara marcano from reporte hispano, June 4, 2015 at 11 a.m.

    I agree with this and comment Jackie and Jose for the courage it takes to continue to bring these issues to light.

    A few thoughts: 
    "Gen Z, but 91% are native-born and only 24% speak Spanish."
    Let's not use a BUT here rather an AND.  Many of these children and young people are raised by abuelos and parents who speak Spanish so emotionally and psychologically even if they do not use Spanish as their L1,they speak and understand Spanish in some very deep, often subconscious ways, which is scientifically well-documented, and they are also culturally multicultural. You can see this in the way these sorts of children asks questions about language and culture from very very young ages. For examples of this, email me.
    A multilingual person is biologically multicultural and the idea of starting with insights that are very very specific and then taking them out as wide as relevant. Most of mainstream US  is not multilingual so that makes it very difficult for members of this mainstream culture  nd for these folks inside corporate America to really understand or even be interested in that as a marketing tool - that ability for example to use language to connect emotionally with someone, psychologically with someone, not because they don't speak English, because it is good marketing.

  3. cara marcano from reporte hispano, June 4, 2015 at 11:12 a.m.

    Rather than this being this very complicated bureaucratic thing to fix - organizationally it seems an issue of diversity and psychological comfort and really allowing a diverse group of folks to the table in a variety of ways - employees, vendors etc, -- in a place where they can be psychologically comfortable first of all identifying the insights and the specifics of these very specific not total market experiences and then really seeing where they take them out to and to give folks and organizations the autonomy to act on those insights and to really really take big risks on them such as say General Mills running a campaign with Caitlyn Jenner.
    We need to look at why that might NOT be happening and what would need to happen inside General Mills for that to happen. If it means giving one person a budget and saying, hey this is a test-and-learn dictatorship, make it happen @sales, show me the ROI on this, to me that is not the worst idea. 
    Taking some of the budgets that aren't working down to zero and the systems that aren't working and really taking it back to zero also wouldn't be the worst idea b/c it would remove the bias from the way things are done and remove those folks and institutions from the gravy train who aren't innovating at sales and who aren't critical enough or taking enough risks or who have gotten complacent. One of the things I love about all of us who work in the Hispanic market is how much we can do with so little budget and how really good this makes our collective skill set at the end of the day.
    We need to do this not only better say for Hispanic marketing for sales AND also for marketing to women, LGBT etc. The idea is to lead with those insights. This remains surprisingly hard to do @ budget, leadership etc. in part b/c the folks with the insights are not being had or heard inside and outside corporate America fast enough and in part b/c Corporate America is still too risk-averse. The GroupThink at the C-suite level and the lack of risk-taking by say someone who is already going to get fired with a $50 million package out of the C-Suite for NOT doing this for not leading his or her team with multicultural and female and gay insights-- for frankly mandating this --   is going to have to change with the country. If you look at the  way the average American has moved say to being more accepting of Gay marriage and more tolerant and excited by and interesed in this diversity, there is this great hope there for sales growth. 

  4. cara marcano from reporte hispano, June 4, 2015 at 11:12 a.m.

    People and organizations can be moved to change and to grow and improve and this will drive sales which is just this very beautiful and optimistic space to work inside which is one of the great joys of having come up in this space.  I posted some of the insights the very specific insights from this week's Caitlyn Jenner story on my twitter feed b/c I thought they were very good specific examples of how you take the segment -- and really engage with it, get comfortable with it and get very specific with it -- and then see where in it you can find that larger --not necessarily universal -- emotional insight to drive sales in that which is a timing issue and a data and research issue AND which fundamentally is a HUMAN issue. @CaraconPecas is my feed or email me as I'd love to talk about how you come to use 'data as art' to find these insights and really push for them and advocate for them with folks as I think it is a great and brave conversation to be having for economic development and I know a lot of you feel and think the same.  
    There are also some issues at consensuality and listening and privacy that are going to come up in our space and which we in multicultural and diversity marketing and best prepared to help the general market understand. When a woman says I want to be called X, we call her what she wants to be called. When a Latino or a Puerto Rican self-identifies this way we have to really engage with that and be respectful of the trust required to build those emotional connections with current and potential consumers. That is also something those of us who come up in sales understand better than others. Give the customer what they want and listent to them. A lot of folks today are feeling the burn of calling Caitlyn Jenner a HE when she was clear she wanted to be called a She. There is an insight there at consensuality and privacy for engagement and for putting the customer first that we all need to sit with. How does the person self-identify? Is his or her or their voice or creative even in the conversation?  Are they even represented in the conversation at all and is there anytihng for them to identify with (for example in marketing to women and blacks more could be done around this). Social listening and market research doesn't even require agreement with the person or group's views  to hear what they want.  More about this in our Hispanic and multicultural space would be fascinating to read.

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