multicultural marketing

5 Ways Multicultural Marketing Campaigns Work (and Don’t Work)

Multicultural marketing offers businesses the ability to hone their messages to their target audience by reaching out to culturally connected groups. This type of targeting can offer major returns, but marketers must tread carefully. Multicultural marketing requires specialized insights and actions that balance culture while avoiding stereotypes. Below are 5 ways marketers create a successful multicultural campaign.

  1. They Empower

When reaching out to groups based on their race, language, age, or even gender, it’s a good idea to create a sense of empowerment with your multicultural advertising campaigns. This type of campaign offers something beyond a brand: they recognize the strength of a group, emboldening a culture to do more than just buy a product. Empowering campaigns encourage people to be proud of your brand, establishing a positive relationship with potential customers.

Examples of empowering multicultural marketing ads abound, but two that stand out are Nike’s Black History Month Ad, “Be Bold. Be True.” and Sport England’s “This Girl Can.” Nike’s ad was released for Black History Month and features a spoken word piece by Joekenneth Museau paired with images of people being “bold,” including Kevin Durant. The piece is subtle in that its connection to Black History Month comes only briefly with the hashag #BHM, allowing the message to become an overarching message of empowerment.

Sport England’s ad went viral with its message of female empowerment, telling women that they should not worry about being judged while working out. It includes diverse images of women exercising, overlaid with phrases such as “I jiggle therefore I am,” and “sweating like a pig, feeling like a fox.” Both ads present two separate motives: 1) to sell a brand 2) to incite change and invite participation in a movement. This allows the campaigns to resonate with a wider audience, and promote themselves as an “active” brand, engaged with the world around them.

  1. They Know Cultural Intricacies

Within multicultural segments there are varieties and changes that will affect your campaigns. Knowing these can save time, resources, and face.

It is necessary to carefully study cultural targets for every campaign and adapt your campaign accordingly. Take, for instance, Chinese New Year. Recent census information reveals that Asian markets are the largest and fastest growing populations with concentrated geographic locations, affluence, and high visibility. Thoughtful marketing campaigns often find success during each Lunar New Year by focusing their campaigns around the year’s Chinese zodiac symbol. However, this year is different for one important reason: it is the year of the sheep.

Maybe you are not sure what this means. If so, it is time to learn the cultural intricacies of your target audience. The year of the sheep, unlike other lunar symbols such as the dragon, is often looked upon with less enthusiasm. According to the LA Times, Chinese birth rates severely decline in the year of the sheep since it carries a multitude of unflattering sayings like “women born in the year of the sheep don’t live long.” As a result of these attitudes, and even the general disposition of the sheep, its year is often not heralded in marketing. As reported in Ad Age, Milo Chao of TBWA in China states: “A sheep is weak; it’s kind of bullied; it doesn’t really do anything—it gets shepherded.” This is only one example of the need to study every cultural campaign to catch cultural idiosyncrasies to develop a successful marketing strategy.

  1. They Are Heartfelt

Humans are a pretty emotional bunch. If the responses to the recent “weepy” Super Bowl ads tell us anything, it is that audiences can be moved by even the slightest tug at their heartstrings. This rings especially true when you account for cultural factors. Our culture identifies humans as individuals, families, nations, and more. Therefore, a person’s link to their culture is usually strong and sentimental.

Recognizing a particular culture’s quirk and bringing it to light in a kind, humorous way can result in better consumer engagement. These campaigns tend to focus on a cultural trait that, if a cultural group was hanging out together, they would gently poke fun at it. This trait would probably make one of the Buzzfeed lists “What [This group of people] Says/Understands/Misses That No One Else Does.” And when it is done well (meaning that it avoids stereotypes), it usually results in higher views, responses, and purchases.

One successful example of gentle humor is Alma Advertising’s “First Customer” for McDonald’s. It features a son on his first day of work, and his Spanish-speaking parents show up as the first customers, taking photos. The ad is sweet, but it also embraces something special about a culture. In this way, it works to recognize cultural characteristics and appeal to its audience.

  1. They Are Inclusive

There is a huge buzz around the idea of “total market” within multicultural marketing. This trend is characterized by the use of inclusive rather than targeted cultural marketing. It is your quintessential campus marketing photo—the one that includes people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences smiling around the founder’s statue—with  a digital edge and sentimental twist.

One popular example of the total-market style is Coca-Cola’s popular “America is Beautiful” advertisement. The ad highlights the melting-pot of cultures that exists within the nation by having “America the Beautiful” sung by different people in many languages. This is typical of total market campaigns and can be used to increase views and engagement through other digital channels. While there are arguments for and against the outcome of the total market trend, inclusivity can work.

  1. They Are Careful

Culturally-centered topics are often very sensitive. It is easy to make a mistake and receive negative reactions as a result. Marketers must be able to predict even the furthest ripple of impact for their campaigns and preemptively address any negative feedback. In light of the current season, let’s consider one example of a campaign that was not careful enough: Puma’s Ash Wednesday World Cup Campaign.

Hoping to use experiential marketing to introduce the new Italia jersey for the World Cup, Puma set up a booth made to resemble a confessional with the jersey, allowing passers-by to kneel at the kiosk and praise Italia. The main problem was that the event occurred on Ash Wednesday, which Catholics consider sacred. While some found the booth entertaining, even posting to their social media others were deeply offended. Although the spokesperson explained it was an unfortunate coincidence, Italia’s obvious connection to the Catholic Church made the error appear insensitive.

As Puma learned, it is easy to cross the line between innovative multicultural marketing and offense. This is why it is necessary to research, evaluate, and re-evaluate before each cultural campaign.

vig blog banners

About the author

Stirista began as an ambitious project from an apartment in San Francisco. But as office space expanded, so did our client base. After a few short years, we have worked with the largest healthcare insurance provider in the world, the biggest telecommunication company in the US, and some of the most prestigious universities in the country. We are on the preferred vendor list for a handful of Fortune 500 companies, with three of the ten largest companies in the world turning to us for...


Read more