Obstacles To Effective Multicultural Marketing Persist

tv watchersWhile multicultural marketing (MCM) is more important and widespread than ever, the effectiveness of such efforts continues to be hampered by inadequacies in several areas: budgets, internal and top-management support, best practices and metrics, according to a new study from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

Conducted in partnership with marketing services firm 'mktg,' the 2008 MCM survey is ANA's third (earlier ones were conducted in 2002 and 2003). Seventy-four marketers from ANA member companies responded to this August's survey.

The results confirmed that MCM continues to grow across all business categories as a strategic platform for driving brand and business performance. Fully 77% of respondents reported having MCM initiatives, and 66% said that such efforts have increased during the past few years.



Nearly all (95%) report that their firms have programs that specifically address Hispanic-Americans, three-quarters (76%) have programs addressing African-Americans, and 38% have programs addressing Asian-Americans. (Those numbers compare with 80%, 60% and 35%, respectively, five years ago. However, the last study surveyed primarily senior marketing executives, while the current one included only respondents actually involved in day-to-day implementation of MCM programs, according to ANA.)

Nearly one-quarter (24%) of this survey's respondents reported having programs geared to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender consumers (no previous data on this question).

However, just 45% indicated satisfaction with the results of MCM initiatives, and 26% said that they are somewhat or very dissatisfied with the results.

Several key obstacles were cited. For starters, only 22% feel that their firms have a high degree of knowledge and disciplined best practices in the MCM arena. An inability to integrate MCM programs consistently into the overall marketing mix is one key challenge in this regard.

Strategic approaches appear to reflect this struggle. While more than half (57%) of respondents defined MCM as "narrowcasting"--meaning separate messaging for distinct market segments and communicating via media that reach multicultural consumers--more than 20% are using seemingly less sophisticated approaches. Specifically, 11% report using a "mainstreaming" strategy (repurposing general advertising approaches to appeal to MCM segments) and 10% simply translate general marketing materials for media catering to multicultural audiences.

Other key challenges: 58% reported lack of adequate funding for MCM programs, 45% cited insufficient internal support, 45% said relevant metrics to gauge performance are lacking, and 34% noted inconsistent top-management support.

Only one in four firms analyze ROI, and other metrics employed vary widely. Brand-tracking studies (55%) and sales growth/volume (54%) are used most often. Other measures include market share (41%), advertising research (38%) and brand equity measures (38%).

Similarly, when it comes to execution, 55% said they prefer a multicultural-specific agency for creative development--and based on satisfaction scores, using a specialized agency is considered a "best practice." Nevertheless, one-quarter of firms use their general agency of record for MCM programs.

In short, while marketers recognize that multicultural consumers comprise two-thirds of the millennial population and that targeted marketing has become more critical than ever because globalization has lessened pressure for acculturation, the survey "suggests that marketers have yet to establish standardized best practices," comments Frank Dudley, CMO of 'mkting.'

"There is substantial upside opportunity to be tapped with the right investment strategies and well-structured, integrated marketing and accountability programs," stressed ANA president/CEO Bob Liodice.

In regard to media for MCM, print continues to be the most used (65%), followed by TV (61%), sponsorships and public relations (each 54%), targeted radio (53%), and in-store marketing and events (each 51%).

Online advertising placed lowest (49%). However, online use has seen the most significant growth as a medium since past surveys, reports Liodice. He also notes that online use appears to vary considerably by multicultural segment, reflecting both different audience usage patterns and the number of available Web sites and other online channels geared to specific cultural groups.

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