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Oct 29, 2020

Thinking

Understanding that Multicultural is a Multi-layered Story

By: Katie Porrata, Senior Creative

The label of “Black,” “Asian” or “Latinx” to describe the multicultural population falls short. The term multicultural goes beyond ethnicity; it’s much more multi-dimensional than that. Multicultural communities are not a monolith. They are a blend of passions, concerns, beliefs and languages that differ from region to region and generation to generation; and brands must look at how they communicate with the population as such. This blend is especially evident in younger generations with rapidly growing purchase power. Today, 49% of Gen-Zs identify as multicultural and this shows no sign of slowing down.

As our world becomes more diverse every day, how can a brand engage and more meaningfully connect with a multicultural nation?

I was able to attend Ad Age’s Multicultural Marketing Town Hall this week, which discussed the importance of authentically connecting with multicultural audiences. Here are some key takeaways from the discussion to consider:

IDENTIFY A UNIVERSAL HUMAN TRUTH EVERYONE CAN RELATE TO

Great, powerful stories have a universal human truth at their core. When you invite a multicultural audience to participate in the conversation, the multiple layers of that story come to light and become more relatable, powerful and relevant to a more diverse set of consumers.

By identifying a core human truth, understanding your audience, and the differences between different segments within that audience, you can identify how they differ regionally, by generation, even by language, to make that story authentically connect.

P&G’s “The Talk” is a great example of this. To start a conversation about the unfair biases people face, the brand created a spot that showed black parents talking to their children about unfair prejudices they might face in society, imagining it across several generations, geographies and genders. This allowed for authentic connection and conversation with people of color across the U.S.

ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL: SPECIFICITY DRIVES AUTHENTICITY

When it comes to connecting with the multicultural community, generalizing is a big no-no. Every culture is different. Therefore, every story should be crafted accordingly. Transcreating, or adapting a general market message to a specific segment needs to be done well. If not, your audience, especially Gen Zs, will take notice and call you on it.

Before you start transcreating headlines, ask yourself three things:

  1. How does this insight impact my community? When Covid swept through the US in March, many brands were quick to support front line workers. But Popeyes, native to New Orleans, took a moment to think “where can I help more effectively and truthfully?” and chose to support their local community instead when they needed it the most.
  2. Who is the best person to tell the story? Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and Argentinians are all Latinx, but their dialects, slang and even some holidays differ. Value the talent and voice behind the story. Remember to craft an influencer & media strategy that speaks to a specific culture within the multicultural community to tell the story correctly and authentically.
  3. In what language do I tell this story best? Some might assume multicultural marketing always involves translating a campaign from English into the native language of that ethnic group. However, that is a generalization and might not create that authentic connection. For example, many 4th and 5th generation Latinx Americans speak English as their native language, versus older generations that might primarily speak Spanish. Evaluating the age of your audience will give you a better-informed strategy for delivering your message and show your consumers that you truly understand them.

READ THE ROOM

Create content with context. Simply working with influencers of color or translating content into your customer’s native language is only inclusive at the surface-level. Ask yourself deeper questions: is this content meaningful for my audience? What purpose does it serve for them?

If you work with influencers or creators of color – listen to their feedback, they can be some of your biggest advocates in your quest to create an authentic connection with consumers.

Also know when to address cultural issues with your consumers. This summer, as the Black Lives Matter movement gained national momentum, many brands that previously never commented on issues impacting their customer’s lives took a public stand against racial injustice. This is when you will need excellent social listening and flawless execution, choosing your timing and your words wisely.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: INCLUSIVITY IS NOT A TREND. IT NEEDS TO BE IN A BRAND’S DNA.

To authentically connect with multicultural communities, companies will need to put in the time, energy and resources to do it correctly. Consumers are holding brands accountable for their beliefs and prioritizing inclusivity. This will not be a quick patch. This needs to be an ongoing commitment to change the way things have been done in the past.

So, how can brands make inclusivity a part of their DNA?

Do not start with the surface level or with casting for content. Begin with insights and data to truly understand the consumer. Second, go deeper than the marketing campaign to show your brand is inclusive by bringing authentic innovation to your business as a whole.

For example, in 2018 Target added more than 150 beauty brands to its stores and e-commerce offerings so women with darker skin would be able to find makeup that complimented their skin color and tone. Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty is rooted with inclusivity, with more than 40 shades of makeup and special packaging to make applying makeup and skincare an easy, relaxing form of self-care for all women.

Multicultural is now mainstream. As our society continues to evolve and become more and more diverse, inclusivity will be table stakes. Embracing multiculturalism and innovating for inclusivity is necessary to successfully futureproof brands of all sizes, across all industries.