Why Brands Must Get Cross-Cultural Marketing Right

In the last few years, top brands like Pepsi, H&M and Dove have faced backlash for their tone-deaf advertisements that offended multicultural communities across the world. With many racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States growing faster than whites, brands must be cognizant of the messages targeting various demographics. Recognizing that “multiculturalism” is here to stay, brands should think of cross-cultural marketing not as an option but as a must.

Brands that wish to survive and thrive for years to come should consider cross-cultural marketing as fundamental to a successful marketing campaign. Brands like H&M and Pepsi that don’t fully understand cross-cultural marketing can face backlash. The truth lies in the numbers: the combined buying power of Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians is in the trillions. 

According to Nielsen, 21 of the 25 most populated counties in the United States are already majority multicultural, meaning that they include “numerically significant pluralities of traditionally minority populations, or are already majority-minority.”



So how do brands tap into this spending power and reach multicultural communities?

Brands need to shift their focus from multicultural marketing to cross-cultural marketing. We define cross-cultural marketing as “the ability for one brand to cross over from one culture to another.” Essentially, brands are moving away from traditional, siloed multicultural marketing to “marketing that simulates across ethnic groups, leveraging ethnic insights to reach across multiple ethnic markets, including the general market.” 

Here are two brands that got cross cultural marketing right:

Fenty Beauty

Rihanna is a cross-cultural icon. The Barbadian pop star embraces her Caribbean roots while successfully crossing over and embracing American culture. With the release of her “Beauty for All” collection, Rihanna offered products for every skin tone with a range of 40 foundation shades, even including a shade for people with albinism.

The release of the brand was well received by consumers who previously felt ignored by major beauty brands. The marketing for the launch included a variety of models of every ethnicity. Fenty Beauty embraced the differences of various ethnicities but recognized that all women want quality beauty products. It avoided siloed multicultural marketing and created an inclusive beauty line that considered beauty preferences across cultures.


Coca-Cola’s “Share A Coke” campaign was one of the most successful campaigns of the decade. The campaign has made its way to over 70 countries, and its bottles are still on shelves today. The “Share A Coke” campaign enticed customers to search for their names on bottles and share on social media.

Coke made sure the campaign was inclusive, including names that ranged from Jose to Laura to Maya. And if someone’s name could not be found in stores, customers could personalize their own bottle online. Instead of doing siloed multicultural campaigns, Coke was able to target myriad cultures with one campaign.

What other brands have successfully utilized cross-cultural marketing? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments.

1 comment about "Why Brands Must Get Cross-Cultural Marketing Right".
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  1. Jose Villa from Sensis, June 7, 2018 at 9:47 a.m.

    Both examples are spot-on... nice article Marli!

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