Avoid Multicultural Marketing Mistakes With Knowledge & Sensitivity

The increasing globalization of all markets and industries places a great deal of responsibility on companies and businesses to know what are the “hot button” issues for all of their customers. One misstep can mean the end of a greatly conceived brand with loads of potential.

Now, because of the Internet, those missteps can last through the information eternity. Here are the five things you can do to insure the life of your brand with multicultural audiences.

1. What’s in a name? Any marketer will tell you a name can mean a lot. Crayola has changed color names over time due to the civil rights movement and other social pressures. In 1962, they replaced flesh with peach, in recognition of wide variety of skin tones. In 1999, they replaced Indian red to chestnut. The color was not named after Native Americans. It was actually named for a special pigment that came from India. But school children often assumed the incorrect origin of the name. Sensitivity to cultural nuances when naming products and services can make a world of difference.

2. Beware of culture conflicts. Nike found out the hard way how important it is to know about various cultural differences with their campaign for Air Zoom LeBron James sneakers. In China, the dragon is the symbol of China and the “feitian” – the flying woman – is regarded as sacred and holy. The Nike commercial shows James using various martial arts moves to beat up these Chinese icons.

3. What’s humorous to some people is offensive to others. The country of Mexico protested an advertisement for Burger King’s Texican Whopper burger. The commercial shows a small wrestler dressed in a cape resembling a Mexican flag. The wrestler teams up with a lanky American cowboy almost twice his height to illustrate the cross-border blend of flavors. The narrator’s voice says the “taste of Texas with a little spicy Mexican.” Mexico’s ambassador to Spain wrote a letter to Burger King saying the ads “improperly used the stereotyped image of the Mexican.”

4. All voices need to be heard at the table. In 2007, Intel had to apologize for an insulting print advertisement. The ad was designed to promote how they could improve computer performance. The ad used a picture of a fully clothed White boss standing in the middle of an office with his arms crossed. Six African American men in runner’s gear were bent over around the “boss” getting ready to spring out of a runners box. Unwritten message…all athletes are African American led by White managers. Having a number of perspectives on your advertisement can raise a red flag when there is a problem such as this kind of racial stereotyping.

5. Multicultural audiences should not be painted with broad strokes. Marketers sometimes fail to understand the layers and differences in various ethnic subgroups. There is no such thing as a monolithic Asian, Hispanic or African American community. There are literally thousands of distinctions in each and every community.

All of these pitfalls can be avoided by assuring that your marketing team reflects the diverse make-up of the audiences you are addressing. Multicultural team members will be more likely to be sensitive to the distinctions that affect them in their lives.


One response to “Avoid Multicultural Marketing Mistakes With Knowledge & Sensitivity

  1. Great insights! Even as professionals we must be aware of how we brand ourselves and our consumers. Moreover, we have an ethical responsiblity to also teach and lead the way.

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