Using Crossculturalism to Win over Millennials

By Ken Muench / The Collider Lab

When I started this blog almost three years ago, the idea of it was quite outlandish and it elicited a lot of controversy. “General Market and Multicultural agencies working together on the campaign? That’s just wrong.”

Since then a lot has happened.

Several Hispanic agencies have started seeking out General Market accounts because this is “the new mainstream” after all. And a few more General Market agencies have opened up multicultural divisions–or hired key Hispanic/AA/Asian executives and creative directors.

The controversy, in essence, has died down and, in general, people accept that marketing to this new generation requires a brand new cultural model.

This post attempts to explain what this new approach is in simple terms.

In the past, marketers saw the Hispanic or AA market as complete silos from the General Market. It was a comfortable and simple way of looking at the world. “My General Market advertising is targeting white folks, and my Hispanic effort is targeting Latinos,” clients thought. Simple. End of story. Clients were happy because it was a clean solution, and agencies were happy because everyone had their own separate piece of the pie.

But as Millennials grew up, this comfortable view of marketing became more and more difficult to maintain.

While previous generations have either rejected, tolerated or maybe even accepted Hispanics, Asians and African Americans, this new generation desires them…their image, their music, their slang (and even their bodies and you’ll see below!).

Millennials, in other words, are anything but culturally siloed from each other. Given this, does it make sense to always silo the General Market & Multicultural work?

The argument Crossculturalism makes is, essentially, “No.” But it goes a step further and says Hispanic/AA/Asian insights and lifestyles are what should–in part–lead your brand. At least if you’re brand is targeting younger folks. I think a few brands have accidentally stumbled onto this. Look at Old Spice. Or Kia.Two brands targeting young folks, used African American culture to some degree and had radical success. Other examples include Nike sb, Dos Equis, and a few others.

My team and I did a bunch of pretty interesting studies that showed just how dramatically the cultural tides had changed in the country.

We charted 40 years worth of television, did a massive dating study (n=1,200,000!) with OK Cupid, analyzed 53 years of Gallup polls, did a very cool subconscious study with professors from Harvard and combed through 35 years of government data on the importation value of spices…among other things.

The result is an eye-popping study in how culture in the US has completely flipped on it’s head. No longer is the mainstream America a celebrated place. Millennials are craving the fringes. Whether it’s Sriracha sauce, Jarritos, Hip-Hop, Manga…if it’s “ethnic,” it’s hot.

Of course, this extends beyond simply ethnicity and into smaller subcultures, but the point is pretty profound: marketers looking to be part of the mainstream, should probably be exploring the fringes of culture. It may sound counter-intuitive, but Millennials don’t think so.

I’ve delivered the presentation at several industry events (Advertising Week in NY, 3AF in Vegas, etc), and several corporate headquarters. And what’s interesting is that the reaction I get has changed over the last few years. The folks that would balk and complain that this “blurs the lines, endangers the silos” seem to be gone.

Instead, a new generation of marketers (or maybe a new perspective from the same marketers?) seems to be taking hold. The first question I used to get was always “Isn’t this dangerous because…?” Today, the first question I get is simply “How quickly can we do this?”

Courtesy of

Categories: NGL News

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