The world is getting smaller — perhaps not physically, but certainly in terms of commerce and communication. Instead of the months, hours or even minutes that were once required to connect with clients, consumers and partners, we now possess the ability to exchange ideas, marketing messages and proposals instantly.

 

This shrinkage has also worked to soften — and some cases – completely obscure the arbitrary borders that have served to separate culture, race and religion. No where is that fact more apparent than in the U.S., where the distance between the traditional majority — whites of European descent — and minorities — African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and others – is swiftly closing. In short, the country is moving toward the melting pot we have long held ourselves as.

The relative melding of the American society hasn’t gone unnoticed by those professionals charged with reaching and engaging audiences with marketing messages. And for good reason — Hispanic consumers spent more than $700 billion last year and millions began adopting new and emerging media; African Americans dropped $860 billion into the national economy and while the segment remains slower to adopt new technologies, there are signs more and more black Americans are online and going mobile; and Asian Americans — the most wired and mobile of all minority segments — is driving to become one of the most affluent and thereby influential elements of the “new” American market.

So all of these very broad segments are opening their wallets and embracing new channels of communication — what elements of Web 2.0 have marketers leverage to engender relationships with these fast-growing segments?

To date, very few! Most firms and their marketing arms have been content to paint with broad strokes.

Hispanic consumers have been lumped together under a common language with Web sites simply translated from English to Spanish. While effective in communicating messages to new arrivals, studies show second and third generation Hispanics prefer to communicate in English. But even more importantly, the strategy fails to build on some key differences inherent in the Hispanic culture. Hispanics tend to value personal contact, are very spiritual and spend more time and money decorating their homes. Incorporating these kinds of widely held touchstones into marketing messages would help make the information far more relevant to the segment than simply translating English into Spanish. [For more information on Hispanic culture, visit http://hispanic-research.com/home/]

Marketers appear to have resigned themselves to one of two approaches in reaching out to Asian and African Americans — either sprinkling diverse models and actors into presentations or perpetuating stereotypes. While reflecting the diversity of the country through inclusive representation is commendable, it fails to reflect the subtle and not-so-subtle differences that exist between ethnic segments. On the other hand, blindly reaching out with grossly misinformed stereotypes — like all African Americans place a high value on sneakers and Asian Americans are obsessed with finance – is irresponsible and ineffective.

Final bark

Merely translating tactics originally aimed at one segment into a new language or augmenting imagery with diverse models is not minority marketing. Additional research is needed to pinpoint cultural touchstones specific to a wide variety of ethnic segments. Marketers must use this information to fine tune messages for these groups. The sun has set on the days of shotgun blasting a broad and rather irrelevant message through mass media channels. Individualization is the wave of the future.

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