Why Cultural Sensitivity in Communications isn’t a ‘Nice-to-Have’
No, multicultural marketing is not a trend. It is not fashionable, nor is it just a way for brands to build a more ‘socially responsible’ image. In fact, the speed in which Western societies are becoming more racially and ethnically diverse has turned culturally sensitive marketing into a tool for a brand’s very survival.
Some companies question whether targeting specific audiences through marketing is as important as it has been suggested for at least 20 years, and instead go for a ‘one-size-fits-all approach’, also known as total market. But the ROI is not optimal, and minority customers rarely develop much affinity for the brand.
Ignoring the unique culture and characteristics of each consumer is a clear mistake in today’s world. Instead, gaining access to the ever-growing buying power of ethnic and racial minorities must be at the top of the agenda of each company, and here is why.
The opportunity in numbers
Western countries have become a melting pot of different cultures. London, for example, has now become a minority majority city, with the White British ethic group comprising 45% of the population and minority groups comprising 55%. Moreover, this trend is set to continue to grow in the coming decades.
The situation in the US is very similar. Hispanics, for instance, are set to reach the 111 million mark in 2060, according to the Census Bureau. But most importantly, their buying power is also rapidly expanding; as of now, it stands at no less than USD $1.5 trillion; slightly higher than the GDPs of Spain and Australia.
Other groups such as Black, Asian-American and Native American, are not expanding as quickly, but their purchasing power is also to be reckoned with; combined, it stands at $2.4 trillion, which narrowly falls short of France’s GDP.
This must be reason enough to take minority consumers seriously. Developing a strong and culturally sensitive marketing campaign will increase your brand’s competitiveness and will create a more intimate bond with the customer, who will, in turn, spread the word.
Let’s visualise a positive example; imagine you have decided to move to, let’s say, Colombia, and found a sizable community of fellow nationals. But one day, as you walk down the streets of Bogotá, you see an advertisement that not only nods at your culture, but also acknowledges the presence of your group in Colombia, as well as your contributions. You would immediately take a photo of it and share it with your friends, wouldn’t you?
It is all about consistency & commitment
Offering a culturally relevant connection to minority groups is the gateway to their loyalty. This will require thorough research on the cultural traits of the group that your brand is trying to target. It can certainly be costly, but it’s worth it.
Just for starters, by having a complete outlook of a certain group, you will spare the embarrassment and negative PR that an ill-informed campaign could trigger. If aspects such as gender stereotyping, potentially offensive imagery, and idioms and colloquial terms are not appropriately researched and localised, you will carry a financial risk of sending the wrong message.
Furthermore, if there is something that abounds in Western societies, it is cultural stereotypes of foreigners. While some groups can react with humour, most do not. Research, as well as involving people from these groups in the development of your marketing campaign, will help to portray minorities in a more accurate and relatable way.
And once you have found your way into a minority market, stay there. No matter how good your campaign is, it will still expire at some point and a new one will need to be developed. The good news is, the more you make a certain group feel engaged, the more loyal it will become.
Embracing diversity is not a ‘nice-to-have’, it is a ‘must’
The benefits of culturally sensitive marketing are real, but only if it is part of consistent and genuine marketing. It is not just about having people from different backgrounds on your brand’s visual image; it is about acknowledging the place of minorities in society and their contributions to it.