Commentary

The End Of Multicultural Marketing?

The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Marketing Insider.

Merriam-Webster defines multicultural: Of, relating to, reflecting, or adapted to diverse cultures

In the context of marketing, multicultural is generally accepted as the practice of marketing to one or more audiences of a specific ethnicity (e.g. Hispanic, African American) that is outside of the majority culture or “general market.” I have described it before as “targeted marketing efforts to a specific, clearly defined ethnic group.”

A quick look at Google Trends over the last 10 years for searches of the term “multicultural marketing” in the U.S. paints a picture of a trend I’ve been anecdotally experiencing, with overall downward momentum.

I feel we’re approaching the end of the line for both the term and practice of multicultural marketing. The end of the term is happening quickly, with the end of the practice following closely.

Why is the term multicultural marketing dying? A couple of important reasons. First and foremost, the term has become highly politicized. As Wikipedia states, “Multiculturalism as a political philosophy (my emphasis) involves ideologies and policies which vary widely. It has been described as a ‘salad bowl’ and as a ‘cultural mosaic — in contrast to a melting pot.” 

It has become a central battleground for the cultural wars in the U.S., pitting multiculturalism vs. assimilation, essentially tainting the word for at least half the country.

Demographic changes are also making the term increasingly obsolete. As immigration continues into the U.S. and the minority populations of Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, and other ethnic groups continues growing, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a plurality. The concept of an ethnic minority set against a majority culture seems increasingly irrelevant and dated. The growth of a biracial and mixed-race population and the growing fusion cultural mix that more accurately describes the U.S. in 2019 is completely out of sync with the simplistic ethnic-based segmentation model at the center of multicultural marketing.

It is also becoming antiquated as a business model. Twenty years ago, the term multicultural marketing broadly encompassed the growing industry of marketing focused on reaching Hispanics, African American, and Asians. Over the last 10 years, the African American and Asian components of the industry slowly disappeared — as have many of the specialized ad agencies focusing on those segments — and the term is generally accepted to refer only to Hispanic marketing. In the last five years, the remaining Hispanic and multicultural advertising agencies have rebranded themselves and changed their business models to service more than just ethnic segments. 

Companies with diversity and inclusion (D&I) departments and/or multicultural marketing groups are increasingly out of sync with the realities of the markets they purport to serve. Multicultural marketing has suffered a near-death blow with the introduction of the “Total Market Approach” — a supposed cultural marketing model that many large advertisers adopted. The end of multicultural points to the end of the line of the diversity/multicultural department, the ethnic (or non-ethnic) ad agency, and ethnic segmentation. 

However, endings beget new beginnings, and new departments, ad agency models, and segmentation concepts will need to replace the “multicultural” versions that have existed for the last 20 years. New post-ethnic segmentation schemas are being developed that address cultural fusion, mixed-race population growth and changing immigration trends. New cultural marketing models are already emerging, such as cross-cultural/polycultural marketing. This is an exciting time to be a cultural marketer.

2 comments about "The End Of Multicultural Marketing?".
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  1. Frank Romero from The Grocer Exchange, LLC, December 23, 2019 at 1:32 p.m.

    Dear Joe:

    You are absolutely correct!

    Too many came into the profession, completely unqualified, only interested in lining their pockets with "Corporate Gold."

    And...

    Within the grocer sector, let's see what they achieved:


    • Food desserts;

    • Poor quality grocery portfolio's;

    • Overpriced foods & beverages;

    • Virtually little to no economic opportunity within the food industry;

    • And...  Worse.



    Yup, the good people suffer while "The Chesters Line Their Pockets."

    Great article, Joe.

    I genuinely thank you.

    God bless you always.

    Respectfully,  

    Frank Edward Romero
    Chief Marketing & Revenue Generation Officer
    The Grocer Exchange, LLC
    F.Romero@GrocerExchange.com
    781-821-2345-Canton, MA Office
    781-821-4113-Direct Line
    617-312-3723-Mobile
    Skype: Entropy1953
    http://www.grocerexchange.com

  2. Marcelo Salup from Iffective LLC, December 26, 2019 at 3:13 p.m.

    Jose, "multicultural marketing" sounds so quaint these days. It was a great way to inform the mainly-white advertising establishment that there was a need to create messaging that spoke to the non-white experience and place them in channels that did not have the inherent waste of, say, network TV. It was also OK in an era where targeting meant "ESPN vs. MTV" or something along those lines.

    Today, when we can make sashimi out of media, slicing them in minute little layers, when we can target an entire Facebook campaign around, say, 818 South Broadway, Ste 1100, Los Angeles, CA 90014 and about a mile out... it is indeed time to abandon the whole notion.

    There are companies like Clinch and Idoomo which can create thousands or even hundreds of thousands of individualized ads in milli-seconds.

    The whole notion of Latino, Asian (whatever that meant, because the "Asian" market had over a dozen primary languages), etc. is too broad from the advertising perspective to be useful.

    Finally, join it with the extreme database capabilities of Acxiom, Personicx and Claritas and you reach only one conclusion: Ciao pescao.

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