Straight Talk: Multicultural Know-how
Last month, The Yankelovich MONITOR released its second-ever Multicultural Marketing Study. Although Yankelovich has been surveying both the Hispanic and African-American marketing segments separately since 1988, this new multicultural format, first conducted in 2003, was designed to compare and contrast the attitudes, values and behaviors of the major ethnic segments in the United States in order to "get into the multicultural consumer mind-set and psyche and provide marketers with actionable marketing insights," explains study Director Sonya Suarez-Hammond.
Suarez-Hammond spoke with me recently about some of the study's key findings.
TG: What were some of the most interesting findings that came out of this study?
SSH: There were a [number of] key trends that we find very interesting and that we are going to keep an eye on. One trend, in the Hispanic marketplace particularly, is the evolution of the family dynamic.
In the Hispanic market, we are seeing that there are many acculturation levels and language proficiencies within one household. We see that traditional family roles are changing. For example, more and more the Hispanic woman is adding to the household income and making more decisions, there is more role sharing, and oftentimes the children are becoming the go-to people for information about U.S. culture. We see that the decision-making process for Hispanics is a multigenerational group process. The take-away for marketers is to recognize that because you have Hispanic family members of different acculturation levels living under the same roof, they are speaking and looking at channels in both languages. Marketers ask us, "Do we speak to the Hispanic consumer in English or Spanish?" The data suggests that you need to reach out in both languages. When we asked which language they prefer to use in every situation, there was an even split between Spanish and English, and about 20 percent with no preference. ... But the bottom line is that, more important than language, your communications have to be culturally relevant.
Another trend is the changing face of trust. African-Americans still are pessimistic about their economic situation, they still feel out of touch with the current government, and they have lost a little faith in corporate entities. But they still trust brands. The Hispanic family is more rooted in a collectivism that puts the needs of the family before individual family members. The family helps each other rather than reaching to outside institutions.
Another trend we are looking at are emerging marketing frustrations. We know that ethnic consumers have more interest in receiving marketing communications. ... But in spite of this, [they] feel the amount of marketing and advertising today is out of control ... and that they are constantly bombarded with too much marketing and advertising. This is expected with non-Hispanic whites, but the African-American and Hispanic consumer also is saying "I'm concerned." That's something we are going to continue to monitor. They also agree that very little, if any, of the marketing and advertising they see has any relevance. Again, this speaks to the importance of cultural relevancy.
[We] propose four pillars of marketing communication that support how to connect with the ethnic consumer: targeting precision, cultural relevance, consumer power, and empowerment and community reciprocity. It's not that the ethnic consumer is saying, "Don't market to me." He is just saying, "Notice me, but do it right and do it in a culturally relevant way."
The net of all this is that marketers really need to sit up and take notice. Marketers have the opportunity to step up their ethnic marketing efforts so that what's happening in the general populationconsumer resistance, marketing pushbackdoesn't happen in the ethnic market.
TG: Where do you see the greatest opportunities for direct marketers within these segments?
SSH: The principals of relationship marketing are at the core of ethnic consumer messaging. And that really has to do with reaching out with messages that are culturally and socially relevant, and making sure that all communications are two-way dialogues, not just speaking at the ethnic consumer. It's involving and engaging them so that you can build a relationship. Many ethnic marketers have acquisition objectives they are meeting, but I'm not so sure there's enough in terms of retention objectives, and that's part of success with ethnic consumers.
Many marketers know the transactional information and the behavioral information, but understanding the attitudes and the cultural values ... and [using them to] develop better communications and strategies will help you ensure your messages have cultural relevance, and ultimately help to affect ethnic consumer behavior change.