Special Report: Multichannel Marketing to Different Ethnic Segments

Posted on by Beth Negus Viveiros

Marketers face the daily task of integrating numerous marketing media into their campaigns. For those looking to target ethnic segments outside the mainstream audience, the added elements of different languages, cultures and traditions make life all the more challenging.

Many mainstream advertisers feel they can simply take their existing creative approaches and run with them when entering new ethnic markets. And in some, you can—but it may not be the best strategy, says Daniel Ocner, director, strategic marketing and development, MediaMorphosis.

“When trying to reach Indian/Pakistani individuals, for example, they are English speaking. So you can run existing creative, but it isn’t really effective,” says Ocner. “Campaigns that generate the best response have some level of cultural cues that allow people to understand that this is a company that is speaking to them, and it isn’t a just a regular mainstream message. Individuals are then more likely to remember the ad and respond.”

“Thinking ‘one size fits all’ is a mistake,” agrees Bob McNeil, president/CEO of Images USA. “You might see a marketer who thinks, ‘Oh, if I just add a black person to a TV spot, it is suddenly a tool to reach African American consumers.’ One of the things we’ve seen is that you need not only to reach but also touch consumers in a way they prefer.”

While marketers don’t necessarily want to just pick up their English-language and mainstream creative and copy, do a quick translation and call it a day when targeting different ethnic markets, they do need to be sure there is alignment between campaigns in different languages.

“You need to have a proper balance,” says Louis Maldonado, partner and managing director of d expósito & Partners, which specializes in the Hispanic market. “Communications should be customized [for different audiences], but you want to have the same core marketing message. Hispanic communications can’t be an afterthought, and should be on the table from the beginning of the process.”


Part of that process is carefully considering how you approach and define the ethnic segment you want to target.

“We really wanted to change the narrative of the industry and address them as American Latinos, respecting their aesthetic culture and values” says Tatiana Pagés, CEO/COO of Greencard Creative.

Toward that end, the agency started the HispanicsAreDead.com website, to help break stereotypes of Latinos in the U.S. People want the distinction of being referred to as American Latinos rather than Hispanics, explains Pagés, because they’d rather be defined by their present and future than by their past.

“The word ‘Hispanic’ has the connotation of people who have crossed the border and are very attached to their culture, she says. “If you approach someone as a ‘Hispanic Mom,’ they will react differently than if you talk to them as a ‘Mom.’ ”

Another important distinction here for marketers is how to approach this audience, adds Pagés. With “Hispanics” you have to segment by country. But when you talk about “American Latinos,” you can segment by mindset.

“One client said they had a master’s in marketing, but felt like they knew nothing when it came to the Hispanic market,” she says. “But the American Latino market was something they could get a better handle on because it reveals a bigger identity than just ‘Hispanic.’ After all, they live here, they work here.”

Of course, there is still a lot to learn with regard to how big this demographic is, and how they are connecting globally with family and friends using mobile and social. And there’s a very big use of video, both in Spanish and English language formats.


Some marketers also operate under the misconception that ethnic markets aren’t as savvy or educated, but the truth is that they are more savvy and price sensitive, says Ocner. In the Indian market, for example, doctors and business owners over-index in terms of educational degrees and income levels. “But they are extremely price sensitive and don’t want to be taken for a ride. They will go online and shop for the best price.”

Fast food chains, CPG firms and mobile phone companies are among the marketers using social and viral to their fullest potential to approach ethnic segments. “They have the dollars to really invest and they’re working to have a presence there, so it makes an impression,” says Ocner. He adds that some smaller marketers are still cautious about trying to make a splash in social to reach ethnic segments. “Many feel that unless you are a big, known brand, it might work against you.”

For some marketers, live events like the India Day Parade in New York are an important part of ethnic marketing. “It allows companies to talk to people they haven’t reached before, answer questions, do giveaways, boost brand positioning and communicate,” says Ocner. Vonage is example; it attends to promote its international calling plans and show prospects that the company understands their needs.

Having a presence at community events can be crucial, Ocner adds, because segments of certain ethnic demographics don’t have the long-term loyalty to brands that people born in the United States have. “The brands they observe advertising are often the ones they think must be the premium products.”


Of course, the fact that a new demographic isn’t familiar with your brand historically can be a plus. For example, Hispanics aren’t necessarily as aware of AARP as are non-Hispanics. While this does mean that AARP has to educate Latino boomers about the organization’s benefits, the fact that it has a clean slate in the market and thus doesn’t need to reposition the brand away from the outdated “It’s only for the elderly and retirees” viewpoint some people have can be an advantage.

AARP’s marketing strategy to reach Hispanics is multichannel, with Spanish language communications as well as messaging targeting English-speaking Hispanics in broadcast, print, digital and social, as well as at community events.

“From a high-level strategic perspective, there is alignment from how we are positioning the brand,” says Maldonado, whose agency has worked with AARP for about two years.

Not surprisingly, the best type of media to reach ethnic consumers depends on the particular demographic, as well as on which segments you want to reach within that demographic.

Ocner notes that direct mail works well with many demographic groups, such as the Arabic market, because mass media options like TV and radio are limited in those niches. It isn’t always easy, though. Pulling mailing lists based on last name can be tricky not only because of language concerns (a Latino last name doesn’t guarantee Spanish speakers in residence), but because that name alone doesn’t indicate whether someone was born in the U.S. or elsewhere.

“African markets are particularly hard to target for this reason” he says. “It’s hard to tell who was born here versus who has a direct connection with Africa.”

In the Indian market, a challenge in doing effective direct mail is the high number of new home-buyers, he adds. “Many people are aggressively buying investment properties—trying to [target an Indian consumer] at one of these homes is a miss because the person you want to contact doesn’t even live there.”

Email can also be challenging for similar reasons, says Ocner. That’s another benefit of having a presence at live events—it gives marketers the opportunity to collect opt-in email addresses to follow up and start a dialogue. “Good email lists are hard to get from third parties—a self-built list is a better option.”


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