With 2011 turning into 2012, we have given Big Tent bloggers this request: Share one thing you wish you had done differently in 2011 (in terms of multicultural marketing) that you hope not to repeat in 2012. Here are some responses, and we invite you to chime in.
Multicultural Advertising Blogger
I have a secret motto that I try to apply to most projects. It gets me in trouble sometimes, but it’s worth it to me. The motto is: “If you ain’t making history, you ain’t making nothing.” We have to think big, because most African-American marketing is 10 to 15 years behind African-American culture. However, African-America culture is generally five or more years ahead of the general market. This is evidenced by the days-old African-American slang that permeates everything from general-market TV spots, to the evening news, to the dictionary. The marketing often is outpaced by the market. It’s a huge gap.
In 2011 we attempted to push a well-established but languishing brand into “modern” times by proposing new, greener packaging — a much-needed update to where and how the client thought about advertising, its placement and purpose. Our mistake was ignoring the pace at which this client was accustomed to change, although we felt the market was primed and ready for it. Initially, the client applauded our effort. But ultimately the new thinking was forced into a 1980s wardrobe that the company’s marketing team has been high-fiving for the past 30 years. We wound up doing print ads and nearly static banners.
In the future, I’ll make sure to prime the client first. We should have introduced the company to a progressive and a balanced relaunch. We needed to walk them into a clearer understanding of media’s increasing range of platforms and marketing’s growing role of being personal, useful and entertaining to consumers.
executive vice president
Cheskin Added Value, New York
I regret not having a better definition or metaphor to describe the shift occurring in ethnic identity in the United States. We use “new mainstream,” “intercultural new mainstream” and “total market.” Lack of a generally agreed-upon label with a clear meaning is causing confusion and leading marketers and their agencies into turf wars, marketing-spend allocation fights and marketing-process debates.
“New mainstream” describes the rise of ethnic-identity consumers and the growing importance of African-Americans/Hispanics as discrete marketable segments but leaves out the impact of ethnic shifts in the general market. “Intercultural new mainstream” suggests that ethnic identity is more pervasive in consumer marketing and changing the nature of the general market. While perhaps more accurate, this term is cumbersome to use. “Total market” rolls off the tongue more easily but can lead to confusion. It suggests to some marketers that a “total-market” approach can replace an ethnic-specific effort, or that a “total-market” effort is the “whitewashing” of multicultural marketing.
My hope for 2012 is that we come to a better understanding of what we are observing in ethnic consumer shifts and their impact on U.S. consumer society as a whole, and in the process either create a new term or better definition for one we already have.
Hunter-Miller Group, Chicago
In the multicultural space, particularly in consumer packaged goods, the clients are younger –- a lot younger than many of their agency or research suppliers. Many are crackerjacks. They have an M.B.A. and maintained high GPAs in undergrad and graduate school. Because of their academic achievement, many tend to have big egos. They know they’re “the client” and will pull rank, even though they don’t understand marketing, advertising, strategy, market research or the ethnic segment they have been assigned to. Importantly and sadly, they don’t value ethnic business because senior management doesn’t value it.
I have spent hours attempting to take these clients to school on areas where they fall short. I have written thoughtful, comprehensive proposals based on their detailed and often confusing RFPs that would translate to an $80,000 project, for example, only to learn that their budget was less than $15,000.
I know it’s a buyer’s market these days, but in 2012 we’re going to be more selective about whom we work with. We are going to do more discovery up front to at least get more clarity about the RFP and budget. In 2011 we responded too often to last-minute RFPs to get the business, but in the end it wasn’t worth it.
We are seasoned professionals who bring a lot of value to the table via our experience and consumer insights. We will stand behind our work and our reputation. We don’t have a problem educating our clients about our work and ethnic segment, but we are babysitters no more.
chief Hispanic marketing strategist
Walton-Isaacson, Los Angeles
With age and experience comes an ability to not care about things that seemed so important when you were younger or starting out. I was under the impression that I had reached a time in my career when I could stand my ground and not compromise. I thought I was wise enough or brave enough or even tired enough to simply walk away from existing or new-business situations that had “not going anywhere” written all over them.
A telltale sign might include a budget allocation that seems to have no meaningful or measurable purpose (which by the way doesn’t mean a small budget — a small but specific budget can generate big ideas and grow into bigger budgets with the right test-and-learn approach). Other things that speak to stagnation are vague or nonexistent goals, coupled with a resistance to planning or any form of meaningful or measurable goal-setting. Lack of interest in Hispanics as living, breathing, complex consumers is also a clue that it may be time to take a pass.
Among the reddest of red flags is the apparent absence of a multicultural-marketing champion with real organizational teeth and the power to dig in, influence change and get things done. Ideally, the person is a respected CEO, CFO, CMO or other C-suite member or close ally. I have come to believe that multicultural-marketing success relies on internal champions. These are more often individuals than departments, but champions can also be a collective of change agents from multiple areas of influence within an organization (and, importantly, they come in all genders, ethnicities and lifestyle constructs).
I thought I was done believing that I could turn a no-win situation into a win by relying on optimism, creative vision and hard work alone. Yet 2011 still had its share of time-wasters — situations that ultimately went nowhere because they were never going to go anywhere, no matter what I or anyone else did.
Here’s to believing that in 2012 I’ll be a year closer to being wise enough or brave enough or even tired enough to spend time only on clients and programs that matter and that are primed to make a difference, to me, to my team, and to the brands and multicultural consumers I serve.
senior partner and CEO
GlobalWorks Group, New York
Rather than something that needed correcting, we prefer to call it a resolution for 2012: to press clients to embrace digital solutions more expansively. Multicultural budgets and initiatives tend to be conservative and more tentative in their new-media involvement. The budgets have never been fat, which meant going more for the sure thing than something new and risky. Well, today the risk lies in not going with the new. This year, we expect to push much harder to raise the proportion of client investment in social and mobile channels. If we have to, we’ll hold workshops to demonstrate how much leverage these channels can potentially yield over offline media.
Our mantra: Follow the buzz and the money. Billions of dollars are flowing into online, and the most successful marketers talk about — almost to the exclusion of everything else — how their digital presence is fueling growth worldwide.
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