Interest is increasing in cross-cultural marketing. This is the idea of adopting a cross-cultural approach, targeting similarities across all ethnic groups for example, rather than creating approaches for each group in isolation. It’s about recognising that in the modern world consumers have absorbed trends, tastes and attitudes from across cultures – consumers don’t live in ethnic bubbles. In the real world we don’t all live in neat, distinct silos. A cross-cultural approach acknowledges that consumers of all ethnicities form the cornerstone of the market; they should not be consigned to specialist channels.
Migration has shaped the market
Migration trends have contributed to the cross-cultural movement. Foreign citizens in the EU totalled 34 million in 2014, and 22 million in the USA.
Yet, recent migration is just one aspect of a multi-cultural society, second and subsequent generation migrants form a much larger part of the market. In the USA, the ethnic minority population increased from 30.6% of the total in 2004 to 37.9% in 2014, and we estimate it will expand further to 44.5% in 2030. Four states — California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Texas, are already majority-minority. 95% of US population growth came from minority populations in 2014 and the country as a whole is expected to become “majority-minority” by the 2040s.
US Population by Ethnicity: 2014 and 2030
Source: Euromonitor International from national statistics
Note: Data for 2030 are forecast.
For brands a cross-cultural approach allows them to communicate a coherent message – as opposed to running the risk of sending out mixed messages depending on the perceived audience and potentially confusing consumers.
- Coca-Cola’s “America the Beautiful” ad campaign is an often-used example of a successful cross-cultural campaign which capitalises on the diverse population of the USA. It consists of the song being sung in seven different languages reinforcing the idea that Coca-Cola is for everyone;
- Kimberly-Clark takes an inclusive approach to marketing. Its “Celebrate Family Unity“ marketing programme linked five of its brands: Huggies, Pull-Ups, Kleenex, Scott and U by Kotex. It was “a platform created to motivate and inspire families to come closer together and give them fun ways to drive family pride and celebrate their unity.” It took inspiration from its Hispanic consumers – a key consumer segment – but was aimed at the general market;
- PepsiCo adhere to what they call a “Cultural Fluency” approach. According to the company, “Cultural Fluency means to market at intersection of interests (e.g. Fashion, Sports etc), rather than to one group in particular.” “It is about being inclusive about the entire texture of multicultural consumers.”
Don’t forget heritage and identity
That said, cross-cultural marketing needs to avoid the trap of generalising. Diaspora communities can still often identify with their home nations – particularly first generation immigrants. Heritage and a sense of identity are important to many. For instance, in a recent report cited by Reachingblackconsumers.com 77% of Black Americans indicated their heritage was an important part of who they are, compared with 58% of the general population.
In some sectors it simply makes sense to target specific ethnic groups:
- L’Oréal has acquired specialist companies in the beauty sector in order to be able to expand on its presence in the multicultural market. It has acquired SoftSheen and Carol’s Daughter in the USA and Niely Cosméticos in Brazil.
Yet even if targeting a specific ethnic group, it’s important to realise that even with the group consumers are not homogenous. There is no one single Hispanic market for instance; Hispanic consumers are as diverse as any others with approaches needed for different income levels, acculturation, age and lifestyles.
Cultural intelligence is the order of the day
Migration, travel and overseas study mean that ethnic diversity will continue to increase. Social media will play an ever-increasing role in boosting cross-cultural communications. A cross-cultural approach to marketing has ever-more importance in an increasingly diverse – but blended – world. Brands which want to remain relevant must ensure they target and win consumers across all segments. Acknowledge heritage and identity, but don’t be consumed by it. Ethnicity is only one aspect of a consumer: just as important are interests, incomes, family, work, motivations and more. But whatever your approach, a deep understanding of ethnic consumers is imperative for success. It’s all in the detail.