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Win With Ethnic Consumers: That’s the Rallying Cry at ANA Conference

11/14/11 Insights Team

Key Takeaway: It’s Like Global Marketing, but Focused on One Country

By: Chiqui Cartagena for AdAge

This year’s ANA Multicultural Marketing and Diversity Conference was so hot, it ended with a fire alarm . . . literally. A false alarm cleared the room a half hour before closing time.

The 12th annual gathering of those of us who toil in the business of marketing to ethnic consumers broke attendance marks and brought to Miami Beach a record number of high-powered marketers who shared insights and best practices.

The growth of the conference is no doubt a reflection of the upsurge that multicultural marketing is having in the business community. The number of attendees has doubled in just a few years.

It’s amazing to hear C-level executives –- from Pepsico to Home Depot, Miller Coors and Walmart — tell the crowd of over 700 people that marketing to ethnic consumers has become a business imperative for their corporations, and that the only way they are going to achieve their numbers in these tough economic times is by focusing on Latinos, African-Americans and Asians.

After two full days of presentations, for me the key takeaway boiled down to a realization that I think may help you demystify this thing called multicultural marketing: Think of it as global marketing, but focused on one country.

When you do international marketing, you work with countries of different sizes and various languages and cultures. Your job is to “localize” your global marketing strategy and adapt it to each market, culturally and linguistically, so it becomes meaningful enough to deliver results in each country, no matter its size. Each of our major ethnic segments in the United States is as large as, if not larger than, certain countries. The Hispanic market is larger than my home country, Spain, while African-Americans outnumber Argentines. “Think globally, act locally” is the mantra of international marketers, and I think that same philosophy can help marketers in the United States wrap their brains around multicultural consumers.

“We need to fundamentally change the way we go to market,” said Pepsico’s new CMO, Simon Lowden, who (probably not coincidentally) recently had been chief marketer for Pepsi International. In changing its “frame of reference,” Lowden said, Pepsico was moving away from multicultural marketing and moving to a “cultural branding” approach whereby it will imbed “cultural insights and strategies” across all its business units, to deliver better results.

Winning with ethnic consumers as a key to future growth was a recurring theme in most presentations, including that of Alpesh Patel, vice president of multicultural marketing of MillerCoors, who said that in the premium light beer category, multicultural consumers are responsible for 47% of new volume and profit. “Marketers have to seize the multicultural opportunity and shape it into an emotional commitment that becomes deeply personal,” said Patel.

Emotional connections between brands and ethnic consumers were brought to life during the Farmers Insurance presentation. Luisa Acosta-Franco, vice president of multicultural marketing, shared new work with the Immigrant Archive Project, a collection of oral histories that highlight contributions immigrants have made to the United States.

Of course, emotional connections have been at the core of what industry leaders like P&G do so well. This was demonstrated during a provocative session by Ida Liz Chacón, P&G’s senior marketing manager, Ethnic Center of Expertise, and my colleague at Univision, Graciela Eleta, senior vice president, Brand Solutions. It was called “Getting Multicultural Right –- From Strategy to Execution.” They described P&G’s “Journey to 3.0″ across a wide breadth of brands across its portfolio, lifting the bar once again for all of us.

Perhaps P&G’s Vice President of Marketing for North America, Jodi Allen, summed it up best when she said: “Marketers have always had to learn how to embrace similarities and celebrate differences.” Now we just have to put this to practice in our own backyard.

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