While Minority Consumers May Like Ads, Many Find Them Irrelevant

Identifying a demographic target and delivering the right message may seem like different problems superficially, but one determines the other. A new study by Yankelovich suggests marketers are not getting that formula right when pitching so-called diversity markets: African-Americans and Hispanic Americans, in particular.

The study by the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based firm does say that African-American and Hispanic customers are almost twice as likely to "enjoy looking at or listening" to advertising than their peers, but that most find current messaging is not relevant.

The research firm's report, "2007/2008 Monitor Multicultural Marketing Study," says only 25% of African-American, Hispanic and Non-Hispanic White consumers feel that today's marketing is both personally and culturally relevant to their lives.

The annual study--developed in collaboration with urban-market and African-American agency Burrell Communications, and Felipe Korzenny, a professor at Tallahassee, Fla.-based Florida State University--is based on a survey sampling of 1,500 African-American, 1,200 U.S. Hispanic and 1,100 Non-Hispanic White consumers ages 16 plus. It was conducted through a two-part process between March and April this year. The first part involved a 30-minute phone interview, in which participants fielded general questions about their attitudes, then questions relevant to their demographic and ethnicity, in the language of their choice.



Part two was a self-administered survey via mail or Internet, in which participants were asked general and industry-specific attitudinal and behavioral questions on a variety of topics, also in the language of their choice.

The report finds that 60% of African-Americans and Hispanics enjoy advertising, versus 30% of non-Hispanic whites; but it adds that marketers make the mistake of advertising in a way that is culturally irrelevant.

Some differences have to do whether Hispanic consumers were assimilated or not, per the firm. Those Hispanic Americans who are less acculturated, and therefore more likely to communicate in Spanish, were more likely also to have stronger feelings of "collectivism and group decision making," per the firm. Seventy nine percent of those respondents said there were "unwavering in [their] commitment to [their] extended family," versus 44% of bicultural Hispanics.

Four out of ten non-Hispanic whites agreed that African Americans and Hispanics influence everyone's lifestyle, but the firm says the tactic of using diversity-market icons for general market promotions and sponsorships can violate the aura of authenticity that an iconic star or personality has with the culture from which he or she came.

When African American respondents were asked about aspects of their culture and traditions they feel are the most important to preserve, "Music/Songs" was cited second most frequently, right behind "History." As different types of African-American music/songs become increasingly borrowed by the general population, they may become less effective as a means of connecting directly with African-American consumers. So in this example, mainstream hip-hop artists that are known to general audiences would not be considered as authentic as using more "underground" artists known exclusively by African-American audiences.

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