To Embrace All Multicultural Markets, Companies Must Become Multicultural

many hands holding a disk

By James Zavaleta, Multicultural Marketing Lead, BUTTER Music and Sound

As marketers consider their internal and external practices where thoughtful DEI is concerned, I think the advertising industry might be ripe for change within its oldest institutions. Long-term results tend to spring from thorough, yet thoughtful, change. An example would be how brands refer to target audiences, as “markets/” and types therein. But what, in 2021, could we possibly call a “general” market? And how is it separate from a brand’s secondary targets? Furthermore, what is a “multicultural” market? The blanket term describes both markets and entire divisions within companies but does little to elaborate on which cultures they mean. The danger here is that, in painting all cultures with a broad brush, the nuances of your target audiences get lost and reaching them becomes more difficult.

Let’s examine the nuances of multicultural markets, what it means to embrace multiculturalism, and how the action can help to advertise move forward:

No market is “general”

The term “general market” has been dying for over a decade; by now, marketers are acutely aware there is no one majority market for all regions and industries. Each company will have a target market that might differ from another, even similar, corporation. That said, the term remains in use and existence. We know this because there are currently “marketers” and “multicultural marketers.” I think we need to scrub “general,” even by omission, from the board and get specific with our titles and audience designations. If a brand’s industry has one market that is the “norm,” layout plain what defines this market. Not only will this clarify things for audiences in terms of DEI, but the practice will tighten the company’s own marketing goals.

Consider semantics

Zooming out a bit, the trend has been to create divisions within companies at large, as we do any other new addition. We have the Multicultural Division, the DEI Division, and so forth. I think these concepts are too sensitive to pair with a typical and technical, “division” label. If the aim is inclusivity, the entire company should embrace DEI initiatives and multiculturalism. No need for one division to target one market–this implying the multicultural market is not your company’s “norm,” but it’s “outlier”, another point to consider and reform.

Every team can be “cultural”

Now let’s focus on the “multicultural” label for the market we’ve so named. What does that mean? Multi…which cultures? Painting any culture that is not your industry’s “standard,” whatever that may mean, with the multicultural brush buries the varieties of cultures you could be connecting with instead. Not to mention, it ignores the potential of your team to supply their cultural perspectives. Everything from a team member’s nationality to their gender, to their orientation, upbringing, the culture of their parents and relatives, and more inform their overarching outlook. My roots are Hispanic and SoCal; my team was recruited from all over the world and span multiple genders and ethnicities. Everyone contributes. I think figuring out what we call a “multicultural market” as we shift the advertising paradigm will play a big role in how we approach said market(s), and with what resources, in the future.

To address the industry’s need for change, we need to start with the dictionary. Then, we can build from the ground up how we’re embracing market terminology and applying our skills to reaching an ever-diversifying audience. New generations hate performative gestures, and rightly so. If the goal is an earnest, long-term change, our first steps can include examining the processes of our own companies, then building partnerships with businesses whose DEI goals align with our own.

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