This article on multicultural marketing is part of a larger series that focuses on diversity and equity in marketing through the amplification of Black and racially diverse authors. As a company, we are committed to identifying actions we can take in the fight against racism and injustice, and elevating BIPOC voices is paramount to inspiring change. Follow along and read other posts in this series here.

2020. What a year.

In less than nine months, you’ve shone light on important issues that many brands have swept under the rug, and then pressured them to share actionable next steps on how to address them. As conscious consumers, our thumbs have eagerly been scrolling through Instagram carousels, brand statements, or black squares, hoping to find one that supports our values. While the discussion around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) has been the focal point of our attention, we’ve often forgotten, dismissed, and maybe even replaced the effort of teams responsible for researching, learning and ultimately building a business case for marketing to diverse audiences.

Let’s Define the Two

You may have heard of the party analogy when defining DEI:

  • Diversity is where everyone is invited to the party.
  • Equity means that everyone gets to contribute to the playlist.
  • Inclusion is when everyone has the opportunity to dance.

Let’s imagine that we are on the planning committee for this party with an overall goal to increase ticket sales. Think about some of the questions the committee may have to work through before sending the invitations out. Perhaps the below come to mind:

  • What is the objective of this event? Why are we having it?
  • What is the desired outcome of the event?
  • Should the event have a theme? If so, what kind of themes should be considered that will be of interest to everyone we invite?
  • Why should people want to come to the event? Are there different motivators for different attendees? (What’s in it for them? WIFM?)
  • Who do we want at the event that represents our company’s culture and fulfills our objective?
  • Should we have more than one event for different audiences?
  • Who do we need represented to ensure the playlist is diverse and caters to all of our invitees?
  • How should we promote our event? What channels do we need to activate on to promote this event and target the invitees where they consume content?
  • Lastly, the biggest question of the committee: How can we increase sales among the communities that reflect our company’s values, that we want to show up?

The questions you just reviewed are the foundational elements that make up a marketing brief.

So… What’s the Connection Between DEI and Marketing?

While DEI looks to shape corporate cultures to be more diverse, equitable and just, inclusive multicultural marketing aims at growing the business. This happens through investing in research and strategic initiatives to authentically market to multicultural audiences.

After years of research and building business cases for multicultural marketing initiatives within Fortune 50 brands, I define multicultural marketing as a niche within marketing growing a brand’s marketing goals within a clearly defined ethnic/race. This includes specific audiences such as Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, LGBTQ+ or perhaps BIPOC and non-multicultural segments as well. This automatically forces marketers to be intentional about learning the target audience’s motivations, aspirations and purchase drivers for the brand’s product or service.

And while we understand that the term multicultural can take on a variety of definitions, it is also equally important to differentiate multicultural marketing from other niches that fall under the marketing umbrella as a profession:

  • Total Market or General Market Marketing refers to marketing efforts made to reach all consumers in a specific market.
  • Cross-Cultural Marketing refers to marketing efforts that capitalizes on insights from multicultural and general audiences through shared points of connection in a specific market.
  • International Marketing refers to marketing efforts made to reach international customers capitalizing on cultural insights within a country or region outside of the United States.

And yes, the above can seem overwhelming, subjective and counterintuitive in a country that’s on an accelerated path to becoming “minority-majority” led by 2040. However, it is extremely important for the differences and similarities to be evaluated thoughtfully and intentionally when building a credible relationship between your brand and audiences that you’re actively seeking.

Now That We’ve Defined the Differences Between the Technical Terms, Let’s Dive Into the Facts

In 2016, the Association of National Advertisers launched the Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM) with a mission to create a powerful voice that elevates multicultural and inclusive marketing, promoting business growth in an increasingly diverse marketplace. Their efforts have been catalytic in driving awareness of the opportunities that exist. According to a 2019 report by AIMM, only 5.2% of marketing and advertising spend was allocated to multicultural efforts even though multicultural consumers make 40% of the U.S. population, according to 2016’s U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey. (This is one of the many reasons why it’s important to fill out your census.) Top highlights from the the 2019 report by AIMM that are extremely important for marketers to consider include:

  • The white, non-Hispanic population has been decreasing since 2016 and is continuing to decline.
  • On the flip side, the multicultural population continues to increase and is expected to be the numeric majority by 2040.
  • In 2019, the LGBTQ+ community had roughly $3.7 in buying power, while multicultural consumers’ buying power exceeded $4 trillion in buying power. To put those numbers into perspective, Germany’s GDP, the fourth-highest in the world, was roughly $3.8 trillion.
  • Multicultural consumers are younger and expected to live longer than their white non-Hispanic counterparts. This makes their lifetime value as consumers much higher for a brand, according to a 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Diversity is increasing as generations get younger. Of the 75 million millennials in the U.S., 42% are multicultural. That percentage only increases with Gen Z.

So if Brands Are Looking for the Growth Opportunity, Why Are Advertisers Holding Back on Investment in Multicultural Marketing?

Earlier we made a clear distinction between DEI and marketing. However, we’re about to tie it back in because everything is interconnected.

One of the consequences of insufficient DEI efforts within corporations is the lack of representation within the workforce. When we lack diverse perspectives across teams, especially in marketing departments, our efforts result in non-diverse, non-inclusive work. The 2018 ANA/AIMM AdSpend Trends Analysis exposed that 50-60% of top U.S. advertisers spend less than 1% of their ad budgets targeting multicultural audiences. This narrow operational mindset has also exposed some truths of why brands don’t allocate more resources:

  • 13% of brands believe they do not need to target diverse groups directly because they reach everyone with their general market efforts.
  • 14% think they do not need to segment because purchase triggers and universal truths for their brands are the same for all segments.
  • 15% do not have the bandwidth or expertise.

With a Global Pandemic and Social Injustice Movements Pressuring Brands to Take a Stance, What Will the Future of Marketing Look Like?

While I wish I could tell you exact details of what the future holds, 2020 is a literal representation of this dynamic and ever-changing thing we call life. If you were to ask me for my forecasted opinion, I’d share that 2020 has and will accelerate the importance of capitalizing on these unique audiences for accelerated business growth, across all sectors and industries.

Why? Because Culture Is Shifting

Younger — more diverse — generations are taking leaps and jumping into leadership positions that hold power and influence. Communities are starting to recycle their dollars within, empowering and supporting Black and brown-owned small businesses to thrive.

Women of color are taking ownership of their lives and careers disrupting the family lifestyle that has for so long ruled our existence and diminished our control to seize opportunities.

We are not only growing in population, but also in education. Now more than ever, we have the highest graduating numbers of Black and Latinx students, according to the National Center for Education.

And as education becomes a power tool for financial growth, our median household incomes and purchasing power are reaching the highest levels that have ever existed.

If the above doesn’t sound appetizing or necessary for your brand, reconsider understanding the reality of your target audience. Acknowledging the evolution of your marketing efforts is just as important as updating your product or service over time. It takes research, resources, time, and intentional commitment in understanding these audiences and creating authentic relationships with your brand.

I’ll leave with one last bit of advice — don’t wait until it’s too late. As conscious consumers, we are well aware of the brands that have been there from day one, the ones that are just now starting, but committed and the ones that just want our money.

Make a conscious effort to win with your actions before you win our pockets.

Juanita Velez is a product of the immigration surge during the '96 Olympics. Born in Colombia but raised in the A, she has trailblazed her way through Atlanta’s UPS and Delta Air Lines corporations as a global social media expert.

Having founded HYPE, Hispanic Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs, as part of a solution to a gap she experienced heavily during her corporate climb, Juanita has propelled exponential opportunities for the next generation of multicultural Atlanta. Her true passion is serving others by connecting people in the community to opportunities. Juanita is a social entrepreneur and corporate professional who values humility, vulnerability, compassion and perseverance. She has shaped a career focused on inclusion, opportunity and drive.

Visit this page to see more in the series, or check back for our next guest post.

Marigold is a family of global marketing technology brands including Campaign Monitor, CM Commerce, Delivra, Emma, Liveclicker, Marigold Engage by Sailthru, and Vuture. By joining together these leading brands, Marigold offers a variety of world-class solutions that can be used by marketers at any level. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, Marigold has United States offices in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and global offices in Australia, London, New Zealand, and Uruguay.