Multi-cultural marketing

Minority marketing is not minor

The sheer size of minority groups in the US offers marketers a huge opportunity – but it’s not always easy

For American companies, targeting specific ethnic groups is nothing new. Of course, these various groups have different needs and wants – and marketers must work to adjust their messages to appeal accordingly.

The need for multi-faceted messages can be difficult for non-American companies to grasp, particularly for companies from smaller countries with more homogenous cultural heritage and values. But in business in the US, one size definitely does not fit all.

Here, we take a quick look at the three largest ethnic groups in the US and some excellent examples of how companies and brands have targeted them to great effect.

African Americans

The 2010 census determined that African Americans make up 12.6 percent of the US population, or 39 million people. African Americans have similar spending habits to Caucasian people, and they tend to identify strongly with certain brands.

  • Proctor & Gamble’s My Black is Beautiful “celebrates the diverse collective beauty of African-American Women.” Proctor & Gamble has identified issues that resonate specifically with this ethnic group and created a universe that focuses solely on them.
  • Reacting to the fact that African Americans tend to take their coffee with sugar and cream more than the rest of the US population, Nestle Coffee-mate has promoted its products in African-American media, resulting in more sales and market share. In another targeted campaign, Coffee-mate sets up a mobile cafe for African Americans.
  • Volvo’s marketing strategy includes targeting its products specifically to African Americans (and Hispanics) as a “safe” alternative.
  • Disney targets African-American families in some of its advertisements. The intention of this TV advert is for the African-American audience to identify with Disney through characters and family values.


The US Hispanic population is estimated at 46.9 million people – 15 percent of the total population, according to a September 2009 Census report. Hispanic strongholds are Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami and Texas.

Hispanic marketing is now an established industry in the US. There are many resources aimed specifically at the Hispanic communities, such as Hispanic Business. Many US companies (and government agencies) make their websites available in both English and Spanish.

Hispanics are a very important audience for Disney, and the company has done very specific targeting within this demographic. The company’s marketing efforts aimed at young Hispanic mothers in the US have included a Spanish-language lifestyle magazine called En Familia, digital marketing, and direct mail campaigns.

Tecate Light is an example of a brand that specifically targets the Hispanic market, notably with the use of humorous TV adverts. Try searching for some on YouTube!

Asian Americans

Asian Americans make up approximately 3.6 percent of the US population. According to the 2010 Census, this is the fastest growing racial group within the United States. Research shows that Asian Americans are frequent shoppers and brand-loyal consumers, so companies do work to produce advertisements towards them. Research also reveals that Asian Americans tend to be conscious of their status, perhaps one reason why premium brands such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz are popular with the demographic.

In this advertisement, Comcast uses Asian American actors to target this ethnic group.

This advertisement also shows that it is possible to reach out to multiple audiences. Shaquille O’Neal, a celebrity and former basketball star, is a popular figure across many demographics in the US, particularly with African Americans.

What can we learn from segmented marketing?

When brands target ethnic groups specifically, there are often increase their opportunities for growth and profit. What it requires, however, is an understanding of the ethnic groups so you can make your messages relevant to them.

If you are new to this type of marketing, the best approach is to focus on one specific group. It will give you the best chance of success with that audience.

For most budgets, it is too ambitious to target multiple ethnic audiences with the same marketing power – but it is vital that you make sure your marketing still respects all other ethnic groups. If you fail to do that, you could alienate your brand or, at worst, land yourself in litigation.

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