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Commentary by The Gonzales Group

RISMEDIA, April 24, 2008-According to Yankelovich’s 2007/2008 MONITOR Multicultural Marketing Study, African American and Hispanic customers are almost twice as likely to “enjoy looking at or listening” to advertising than their peers, but most believe that current messaging is not relevant.

The study shows that only 25% of African American, Hispanic and Non-Hispanic White consumers feel that today’s marketing is both personally and culturally relevant to their lives. To make brands more attractive to a multicultural audience, brand managers need to implement integrated marketing strategies which address life-stage and personal interests in addition to cultural values.

“Multicultural marketing needs to become more multi-dimensional,” notes Sonya Suarez-Hammond, vice president of Multicultural Marketing Insights at Yankelovich. “Of course, not every advertising spot or print ad needs to reach a Hispanic or African American consumer on all three dimensions of relevance. But, an overall campaign should. The more integrated and relevant the messaging, the stronger the overall brand connection will be.”

According to the study, ethnic consumers are considerably more receptive to marketing and advertising messages than their peers. Roughly six in ten (60%) African Americans and Hispanics (59%) indicate that they “enjoy looking at or listening to advertising,” compared with 30% of Non-Hispanic Whites.

The study stresses that ethnic consumers are less homogenous as a group than marketers often assume. There are many important sub-segments. In the Hispanic market, for example, these would include Bicultural Hispanics, who are navigating between two cultures, and Spanish-Oriented High Cultural Affinity consumers, who are less acculturated and more likely to have stronger ties to traditional cultural values such as collectivism and group decision making. Whereas 79% of respondents in the Spanish-Oriented High Cultural Affinity segment say “I am unwavering in my commitment to my extended family,” for example, only 44% of Bicultural Hispanics feel the same sense of responsibility to extended family members.

“Ethnic consumers have very distinct preferences and respond to different emotional hot buttons,” said Suarez-Hammond. “Therefore marketers must refine their messaging to avoid generalization and highlight brand relevance and authenticity.”

With four out of ten Non-Hispanic Whites agreeing that African Americans and Hispanics influence everyone’s lifestyle, it’s not surprising that marketers are using African American and Hispanic icons and cultural elements to reach broader audiences.

“The commercialization of culture is a difficult line to navigate,” said Suarez-Hammond. “Marketers must recognize that the more cross-cultural appeal a cultural element has, the less authentically and exclusively African American or Hispanic it becomes.”

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