When Google recently announced a change to its algorithm to reward mobile-friendly Web sites, it served as a wake-up call for small business owners who have been slow to adapt to the mobile revolution.
The change, dubbed “Mobilegeddon,” also highlighted the growing power of young multicultural consumers who have adopted a mobile-first lifestyle. In fact, 25 percent of black and 42 percent of Hispanic millennials access the Internet solely via mobile, according to research from analytics firm ComScore. For the total population, that number is just 10 percent.
Unfortunately, many small business owners have struggled to reach multicultural audiences. And launching a mobile-friendly Web site won’t be enough if small business owners continue to treat these audiences as second-class citizens and use stereotypes in marketing messages.
There is a better approach, and it begins with the recognition of a basic fact: Multicultural consumers are transforming the mainstream through their population growth and unprecedented buying power. These consumers should be integral to your core marketing efforts, not an afterthought.
The easiest way to miss out on this opportunity is to maintain the status quo. For example, if you’re trying to reach people in New York City, go ahead and ignore the 37 percent of residents who were born in another country. That’s what you’re doing if you’re only producing English-language ads and only advertising on English-language outlets.
To create new marketing segments tailored to different cultures, you’ll need to abandon your pre-conceived notions. Here are three steps to obtain a deeper understanding of your customers’ cultures:
Start with data: Gathering information about your customers will give you insight into their habits. For instance, Asians are more likely to visits casinos and to use financial products and services. Armed with this knowledge, you can craft specific messages to reach them. When you start with data, your marketing plan will be based on facts, not stereotypes.
Strategically select media: Your media spend should reach as many of your potential consumers as possible and in the most efficient manner. Buying time on the Mandarin-language evening news broadcast on KTSF in San Francisco, for example, will get you a higher percentage of highly educated and affluent Bay Area consumers than buying time on the station’s English-language broadcast.
Keep messaging consistent: The old-school way of targeting multicultural markets relied on stereotypes. For example, an Asian marketing campaign would show a kid playing his violin as four generations of a family sat around the table eating dinner with chopsticks. This is embarrassing and ineffective. Successful multicultural marketers understand that the core brand messages must remain the same across audience segments. American consumers of all ethnicities base their purchasing decisions on competitive pricing, perceived value, and core product benefits.
And when you base your marketing on stereotypes, you’re blending in with similar messages. For example, does the world really need another ad featuring a Hispanic grandmother watching a telenovela? No. It needs more ads showing a busy middle-class mother who needs a specific solution to a household problem. The ad might be in Spanish, but that doesn’t mean it should be dripping with stereotypes.
For example, we recently helped a gaming company realize that Chinese-Americans don’t travel to Las Vegas for Chinese food and Chinese entertainment. We used data to prove that these travelers — like all travelers — want to discover something outside their own culture. So the gaming company introduced images of traditional Las Vegas shows and non-Chinese food and beverage outlets to its advertising campaigns, and business grew.
Multicultural consumers are no longer a secondary concern for small business owners. They’re integral to any successful marketing campaign. By building stronger relationships with diverse groups and spreading your money to ethnic media, you can pull in customers from all cultures.
Luba Tolkachyov is co-founder of Gravity, an advertising agency focused on cultural marketing. This article was co-authored by Larry Moskowitz, a strategist at Gravity.