Commentary

Semantics Matter: Culturally Integrated Market Research And Total Market

2015 has been the year that concretized total market as the new definition for multicultural or cross-cultural marketing. After a couple of years of debate, total market has won as the new buzzword for companies looking to integrate multicultural audiences into their strategic marketing initiatives. Love it or hate it, it is here to stay for the foreseeable future. 

Looking specifically at the market research industry, it has no stake in which definition wins as the core of our business relies on effectively researching consumers of all races and ethnicities and delivering actionable insights to clients. Definitions wax and wane, but quality, and more importantly, actionable data never goes out of style. 

But definitions matter and unlike previous definitions that have colored the multicultural marketing landscape, total market contains no reference to culture. Although this definition has been embraced by leading multicultural and cross cultural advocates, culture is missing from the definition itself thus opening ourselves up to a slippery slope of losing what made multicultural marketing effective, culture. 

It is ironic in the year that we have seen the most data for the ROI of multiculturalism in media to marketing, we are seeing the embracement of a definition that leaves culture out of the conversation. As a market research company, we follow the data, and the data overwhelmingly points to the importance of including multicultural initiatives from boardrooms to marketing as it ultimately increases the bottom line. 

Speaking for the market research industry, we feel that total market does not convey the need to integrate culturally diverse audiences into research, the foundation for effective multicultural marketing campaigns. So we are calling for a new definition for integrating multicultural audiences into market research initiatives: culturally integrated market research. 

Market research and total market research as definitions lack the assumption that representative samples of Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, non-Hispanic Whites, mixed-race and other groups will be included in the sampling whereas culturally integrated market research has an underlying assumption of the integration of diverse samples within the research. 

Semantics matter, especially in marketing and market research, which is why culturally integrated market research needs to be discussed in 2016. Market research is typically five years behind its marketing counterparts when it comes to adopting trends, and with such a critical topic such as multicultural audiences, I think part of the issue has been a lack in a clear definition for the market research space. 

Culturally integrated market research continues to grow in importance as more and more companies are realizing that their future success hinges on understanding culturally diverse audiences. As the need for this data grows, the importance of clearly delineating what culturally integrated market research is will also grow.

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