Harsh Political Climate Forces Brands to Rethink How Best to Connect with Multicultural Consumers
March 27, 2017
Written by Ozzie Godinez, CEO/Co-Founder
Because of the political climate, we are commonly referred to as a divided nation. Which is true.
But we are also united. Look at the Women’s March in January: More than one million women, and men, marching through the streets loudly supporting minority voices, from Muslims to the transgendered.
Counting on our assumptions about how things are is no longer valid. That includes relying on the norms of multicultural marketing, which in the current political era, is going through its own period of reassessment. Things are changing and brands are facing very real challenges they did not anticipate before the November election. How they move forward will determine the future of multicultural marketing in these uncertain times. Here are four takeaways:
1. Minority groups cannot be taken for granted as one homogenous entity. No recent event proved this point more than the recent presidential election. Many marketers assumed that given Donald Trump’s fiery rhetoric against Latinos (“bad hombres,” “Mexican judge”) and his threat to build a wall along the Mexican border, that Latinos would vote overwhelmingly for his opponent. That didn’t happen. The Latino vote was down this election and a higher percentage voted for Trump (29 percent) than voted for Mitt Romney four years ago. It turns out more Latinos may have voted for Trump than expected because of his stand on economic prosperity.
This once again proves how minority groups are divided more by values and beliefs than they are by cultural heritage. As generations settle in the U.S., they may hold onto some elements of their culture, but their differences still come through. For example, while Mexicans found Trump’s remarks about their home country offensive, Cubans were drawn to Trump because he took a hard stance against the regime of leader Fidel Castro. In both cases, there were cultural norms at work that differentiated both groups, but ultimately it was about different priorities and beliefs.
2. Many brands may embrace multicultural. Because the election was a referendum on diversity, some brands may walk back their approach to multicultural. The incendiary rhetoric against minority groups, from the podium to rally crowds, may scare brands that if they go too far with diversity outreach that consumers may punish them at the checkout counter.
However the greater likelihood is that there are brands that will choose empathy for minority groups or embrace messages of compassion. We already witnessed this in this year’s Super Bowl where brands like 84 Lumber, Budweiser, Google, Audi, and Airbnb all produced ads that pushed back against Trump’s messages and spoke directly to groups that are feeling threatened by his politics. This approach might be the wisest because it is invested in the long-term. Minority groups are here to stay. Showing those consumers you care about them is a gesture of goodwill that, multicultural or no multicultural, is just good marketing.
3. Brands may go beyond their messaging to show empathy in creating products especially tailored for minority groups. One example is Nike’s athletic hijab. Due in 2018, the garment is intended for Muslim sportswomen who struggle to compete with traditional hijabs because they are too heavy or disrupt focus. Similarly, cosmetics companies have introduced halal beauty products for Muslim women.
As more brands demonstrate they are inclusive to all groups through special products, they will receive greater loyalty among consumers — not just those the products serve, but also from those majority white consumers who want to feel they are supporting a brand that shares their values.
4. Brands will come to understand the economic benefits of multicultural. According to Nielsen, this is a $3.4 trillion market with “super consumers” who represent the new mainstream. That’s a whopping 409 percent increase since 1990! Even pursuing the youth market means going multicultural since multicultural consumers are younger and represent 38 percent of the U.S. population. As for political influence, Pew predicted that 38 percent of those voting in the 2016 general election would be classified as multicultural.
Brands will not achieve relevancy without acknowledging and understanding the far-reaching implications of multicultural marketing. It is the new mainstream and it’s here to stay.
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