Multicultural Marketing: A Misunderstood Concept and Untapped Business Strategy

By: Loida Rosario
June 2009 Marketing 2 Comments

Newly released census figures show that the nation’s minority population has reached 102.5 million people, or one in three Americans. For example, Illinois’ population is now 35 percent minority, ranking the state 15th in the percentage of minority inhabitants nationally. Hispanics now account for over 15% of the overall population and are leading these growth trends.

This burgeoning population-and the buying power it represents-makes effective multicultural marketing imperative for businesses to succeed. Yet many firms in our businesses community lack both a clear understanding of these diverse consumers and a disciplined approach to investing in and managing multicultural marketing.

Decisions about multicultural marketing often are flawed by misconceptions and a lack of data about minority consumers.   Assumptions about acculturation and assimilation lead firms to believe that diverse segments-especially consumers from immigrant populations-will eventually be absorbed into the general market, so, why bother tailoring marketing messages or products to them? Until recently there were few research databases available to provide information on consumption behaviors of African Americans, Hispanics and the many Asian groups.  Marketers should take advantage of these resources, but also dig deeper because even this data is not complete.  For example, supermarket consumption data often doesn’t count the many small ethnic neighborhood stores, and news consumption tracking often does not include magazines from immigrants’ countries of origin.

So, how can companies begin or improve multicultural initiatives? Some advice:

1.      Adopt a common company-wide definition of multicultural marketing. Avoid trial and error approaches by creating a shared platform to discuss and capture knowledge and experiences about multicultural marketing.

2.      Analyze your customer base thoroughly. Invest in database-mining techniques to identify how multicultural customers can help grow your business.  You’ll be surprised where the growth is coming from when you segment by culture and level of acculturation.

3.      Identify opportunities. Do not focus just on just one promotion or version of a promotion.  Dig deeper.  Look for new product and market development opportunities that meet the needs of un-served segments.

4.      Learn to understand differences in consumer behaviors and decision-making processes among multi-cultural groups and subgroups. Develop a measurement process and criteria that takes into account those differences when promoting your product. Once you know the differences, look for the potential similarities between multicultural segments, the general market and even world markets.  Use this knowledge to promote across brands and product categories or to create new offerings.

5.      Define a process for multicultural marketing so your company consistently applies techniques to other projects, measures and understands the results, and adjusts applications accordingly.  Institutionalize the learning.

Companies miss the whole enchilada when they cling to the concept of the melting pot.  Only when businesses truly understand multicultural market differences can they leverage both differences and similarities across markets to succeed.

About the author

Loida Rosario is a faculty member and co-founder of the Multicultural Marketing Program at DePaul University. A consultant and entrepreneur, Rosario is a published author on new product development and previously served as a marketing executive for Fortune 100 companies. She will be featured at the Into the Core: Strategic Multicultural Marketing Summit on June 25-26, 2009. Visit

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