Multi-cultural Partnership Marketing Simplified: 'Same, Same But Different'

As I recently read a bedtime story to my daughter, I was struck at how a children’s book and my day job could collide. It occurred to me that this story encompassed the hallmarks of multicultural marketing at its best. The book, Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw tells the story of two young pen pals, one from America and one from India, and the similarities and yet nuanced differences in each of their lives. 

In the book, the boys compare and contrast their worlds through letters and drawings of their families, favorite activities, and forms of expression. The author enlightens her young audience to a world not that different from their own. In much the same way, a total market campaign’s overarching similarities can be even more culturally relevant if the right contextual differences are fully explored. And when done right, it does not have to feel like you are creating programs for consumers who live in two totally different worlds.



Multicultural marketing has been traditionally viewed as “Same,” simply a language translation as part of a total market strategy. Others might advocate for “Different,” by creating a completely separate platform with emphasis on the cultural divides. But perhaps “Same, Same but Different” needs to apply to a more behavioral-based model rooted in cultural dimensions. 

In creating a cultural hotspot, one needs to link shopping behaviors to cultural values including “uncertainty avoidance,” the degree to which people can cope with ambiguity or unclear situations, which was conceived by cross-cultural pioneer Geert Hofstede. The good news is that the Same, Same but Different approach does not require wholesale structural changes. Partnerships, whether they are sports, entertainment, or cause related, have very specific points where culture can be dialed up and exert the greatest influence.

The entry points are the 3Cs of culturally relevant partnership marketing: Cultural Context, Content and Communication. By using the 3Cs, one can better create as well as evaluate a multicultural marketing campaign. To emphasize this approach, take for example, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s annual “Thanks and Giving” campaign and how the brand modified an overarching platform to be even more culturally relevant and impactful. Here’s how the 3Cs were instrumental and how St. Jude’s used these entry points to achieve relevance and ultimate impact. 

1. Cultural Context: This allows marketers to gain insight on the driving behavioral forces for different demographic groups. Not only do multicultural consumers over-index against social causes but based on the uncertainty avoidance cultural dimension, Hispanics are more likely to trust expert opinions and celebrities in advertising to avoid uncertainty and further reinforce opinions. St. Jude’s celebrity-focused campaign has been consistently reaching Hispanic donors by leveraging this contextually relevant principle. Similar to St. Jude, in order to create the right cultural context, brands needs to link shopping behaviors to cultural values. Based on the uncertainty avoidance dimension, Hispanics trust experts and celebrities to avoid uncertainty and reinforce purchase intent.

2. Content: A partnership marketing campaign must have content. In this example, the content pertains to the celebrity endorsements. In addition, Latino stars who demonstrate a strong work ethic are up to 55% more relatable to Hispanics than to the general market. St. Jude secured culturally relevant celebrities including singer/songwriter and campaign spokesperson Luis Fonsi, as well as Sofia Vergara, Daisy Fuentes, Antonio Banderas and Juanes. This is perhaps the only example in which Jennifer Anniston, the primary spokesperson for St. Jude, simply would not cut it. Brands must recognize that it is not just any content, but contextually relevant content and authority figures that will resonate with multi-cultural audiences. Like the St. Jude’s initiative, celebrities known for having a strong work ethic will resonate much more than just any celebrity, expert or public figure.

3. Communication: Given that 62% of all Hispanics are bi-lingual, while a campaign can have incredible content and context, it must be communicated with the language of the heart to be most impactful. Not only did St. Jude promote this campaign featuring celebrities in bi-lingual TV and radio but they also created a Spanish language website in addition to a video series featuring Latin stars, Raul Gonzalez, Luis Enrique and Prince Royce on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites. Furthermore, 62% of Hispanics are using social media to engage with companies around social and environmental issues vs. 51% of the general population. St. Jude communicated their message through social media efforts within the community. Keep in mind the bi-Lingual “language of the heart” communication across the entire purchase decision journey when strategizing your multicultural marketing approach. When spoken by an authoritative figure, this can be a powerful point of difference. 

By leveraging these contextually relevant principles – cosmetically tweaking and dialing up specific points to make it more culturally and contextually relevant – St. Jude’s Hispanic donor engagement has been pushed to record-setting levels. 

Emphasizing the 3C’s is the key to a multi-cultural partnership marketing strategy that can be as simple as a children’s book.

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