Recognizing Diversity in Multicultural Marketing

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Recognizing Diversity in Multicultural Marketing
Golden Gate University
December 16, 2011

At the fictional Sterling Cooper ad agency in "Mad Men," Pete Campbell urges a client to "take a look at the Negro market." In the TV show the year is 1961. Today, it's a reminder that the push to understand and target consumers on the basis of their ethnic identity goes back decades. When mainstream marketers began to seriously consider focusing on minorities as a consumer market in the middle of the twentieth century, there was very little corporate expertise. Ethnic markets were smaller and pocketed and agencies lacked metrics of evaluation, infrastructure for execution and, there was the issue of discrimination. Surprisingly, some of the issues remain, but to a far lesser degree. In recent decades, changes in demographics, marketing tools and corporate expertise have made marketing to ethnic consumers, multicultural marketing, more relevant than ever. Multicultural marketing efforts are often directed at three specific demographic segments: Hispanics, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans. However, multicultural marketing segmentation goes beyond race and ethnicity. Ethnic consumers are more complex than their race. Though a vast majority of marketers continue to focus on a monolithic view of race or ethnicity, this sort of conventional multicultural marketing segmentation fails to adequately identify multicultural consumers. I feel there is a real need to recognize the diversity within the Hispanic, African-American, and Asian-American consumer segments, and expand multicultural consumer segmentation into more relevant groups that reflect their true consumer identity. Minority segments are changing and the American marketplace is evolving as the U.S. approaches a majority-minority nation comprised of more Hispanic, Asian, bi-racial, and multiracial consumers than ever before. Traditional multicultural marketing segmentation must be re-examined to reflect the change in general market and multicultural identities. This essay will examine old multicultural marketing segmentation methodologies and companies such as Proctor & Gamble, McDonald’s, and Home Depot that are forging ahead into the new multicultural marketing.

Due to segregation and minority exclusion from mainstream society, ethnic consumers were for the most part ignored by mainstream brands. Ethnic consumers made up a very small segment of the population and their presence produced fear and anger. As the population of African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Asian immigrants grew in major cities, public fear and outcry of their presence reflected in editorialized caricatures found in newspapers in the 19th and early 20th century (Chambers, 2008). Instead of marketing to ethnic people, their images were used in branding, packaging, and advertising of products during that era. White mainstream brands were very attracted to the stereotypical Black image during the antebellum years, which produced characters like Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and Rastus (Chambers, 2008.). Meanwhile, Mexican Americans and Asian immigrants were simply ignored. When freed African American slaves, Mexican Americans, and Asian immigrants from China and Japan settled into various areas of the U.S. in the latter part of the 19th century, they typically established newspapers to connect with their own people. And as long as there were newspapers geared specifically toward individual ethnic groups in America, there were minority-owned businesses that used that media content to market goods to their respective ethnic group. This constitutes the earliest form of targeted multicultural marketing in the U.S. (Burgos, Mobolade, 2011). African American, Hispanic, and Asian consumers each experienced different cycles of growth from the 19th century to the middle of the twentieth century; so too has acknowledgment and engagement with these segments by mainstream advertisers. Nation corporations...
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