Why Cultural Competence Is Critical In The Age of Multicultural Data

Programmatic media buyers know that multicultural audiences are a rapidly growing and vital market segment. However, advertisers also know that targeting these audiences can be challenging, especially for those lacking cultural competence. Cultural competence is essential for programmatic media buyers aiming to reach multicultural audiences effectively while avoiding costly mistakes. 

What is Cultural Competence? 

Cultural competence is the ability to understand, appreciate, and interact with people from cultural backgrounds, values, and beliefs different from one’s own. While necessary for companies and brands aspiring to reach and engage multicultural audiences meaningfully,  cultural competence is essential for programmatic media buyers who rely on data-driven strategies to target their ads.  



The absence of cultural competence in the multicultural data era can have negative consequences for marketers, so it’s important to remember the following: 

  • Data can be biased. The data that programmatic media buyers use to target ads is often collected from various sources, including social media, search engines, and online surveys. However, this data can be biased, reflecting the biases of the people who collected it and the systems they used to collect and analyze it. For example, a social media dataset might be biased toward younger users, or a search engine dataset might be biased toward people interested in specific topics.  

Advertisers unaware of these biases could end up targeting ads to the wrong people or using offensive language in ads, risking the company’s brand reputation and alienating the target audience. 

  • Different cultures have different values and beliefs. What's considered acceptable in one culture might be offensive in another. For example, direct eye contact is considered rude in some cultures, while others assume that those who avoid eye contact are rude. It is important to be aware of the cultural differences between the target audience and advertisers to avoid causing unintentional harm that jeopardizes brand health.  

  • Multicultural consumers are more likely to trust culturally competent brands. A study by ThinkNow found that 63% of multicultural consumers are more likely to trust brands that create ads that reflect their culture. When ads are culturally competent, they signal to the target audience that the advertiser understands them and respects their culture. This builds trust and loyalty, which can lead to more sales conversions over time.  

Programmatic Media Tips 

Wondering how to employ cultural competence when using programmatic media to reach multicultural audiences? Here are a few valuable tips: 

  1. Be aware of your own cultural biases. We all have cultural biases, even if we're not always aware of them. So, the first step to becoming more culturally competent is awareness. To do this, consider taking a cultural bias assessment or talking with someone from a different cultural background. Then, embrace accountability. 

  1. Research the target audience. Once you have acknowledged your cultural biases, thoroughly research your target audience. Delve into their culture, understanding their values, customs and belief systems. This can be accomplished by immersing yourself in books and relevant articles, conversing with people from the target audience and participating in cultural events. 

  1. Use zero-party data from a cultural research company. Zero-party data is voluntarily shared with companies and organizations by customers via surveys, online forms, applications, polls, etc. Cultural research companies can collect zero-party data from multicultural consumers that deliver insights about their culture. This data can inform programmatic media plans that result in culturally responsible advertising.   

By following these tips, advertisers can use programmatic media to reach and engage multicultural audiences respectfully and effectively. 

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