Marketing to Multicultural Audiences


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Marketers are growingly acknowledging the increasing strength of ethnic groups and are reverting with targeted marketing efforts. Targeted interactions normally draw on several references to the ethnic culture in an attempt to augment communication with and obtain the consent of the intended audience. Nonetheless, research on how these accommodation attempts might be received is insufficient. Drawing upon a range of disciplines, the authors formulate a theory of multicultural marketing.

Ethnic Multiplicity in the Marketplace

Demographic transitions might serve as a catalyst for cultural and social changes in both commercial and private spheres. From a commercial perspective, several organizations are recognizing that ethnic groups previously ignored are increasing in market power and that matching their requirements presents a good opportunity for success. Demographic trends among the biggest ethnic groups disclose that each will keep on increasing in importance as a potential target market. A study of prevailing business trends signifies that the growth of ethnic target marketing is matching the demographic transitions in the American marketplace (Oosthuizen, 2004).Illustrations abound of both ill-fated and successful multicultural targeting strategies.

In the latter category are included the approaches employed by marketing moguls such as Pepsi-Co and Kraft General Foods, which have a separate divisions within their marketing department to formulate targeted communication strategies to multicultural groups by means of conventional advertising media and through varied channels like ethnic event sponsorship. Kraft not only invites marketing ideas from its ethnic workers, but is even committed to promoting ethnic events like Hispanic World’s Fair in New York, and Calle Ocho, a Hispanic street festival in Miami. Hence, clearly, the organizations are promoting multicultural communities and are henceforth creating brand awareness.

Their usage of cultural symbols to reach multicultural customers has been received well by the target audience. Various less renowned organizations are also increasingly acknowledging the requirement of developing novel market segments (Rust, Boorman and Bhalla, 2010).

Intercultural Communication

A review of theories formulated in other disciplines discloses a range of research in sociolinguistics which might be helpful for the present study. Specifically applicable are the researches reviewing the adaptation of one’s speech patterns while communicating with people belonging to distinct ethnic groups. Research works reveal that as the speech patterns of A goes on become more same to that of B, the chances that B will positively assess A gets high. Propagators of speech accommodation theory laid focus on behaviors restricted to the sociolinguistic domain like length and accent of utterance and speech rate. Researchers identified that when individuals were encouraged to seek consent or enhance communication, their speech patterns tended to converge with that of the other party (Jeffres, 2000).

Promotional communications are aimed at communicating efficiently and seeking the consent of the targeted audience. Corporations aim at accommodating their consumer groups for building the brand equity. As in the respect of certain original intercultural speech research, communication across ethnic groups frequently entails accommodation to the targeted group’s culture. Nonetheless, in this attempt, organizations might go beyond simply matching their target’s language or speech styles and makes use of cultural symbols for becoming same as and gaining the approval of their audience (Xu and, 2004). A speech accommodation research was drawn by Koslow, Shamdasani and Touchstone in 1994, during their examination of Hispanic customers’ responses to the usage of Spanish language in ads, hypothesizing that “for accommodation to take place, Hispanics should see the selection and usage of Spanish in the ads as a pointer of the advertiser’s respect for the Hispanic culture and intention to shatter cultural barriers by reduction of linguistic disparities.

They identified that the usage of Spanish in advertisements augmented perceptions about the sensitivity of advertiser toward Hispanic Culture and those perceptions were related positively with impact toward the advertisements. Their research findings varied from those in a similar research conducted by Faber and O’Guinn in 1991. These researchers identified that for majority of the people exposed to both Spanish and English language versions of an ad, there so significant affect on attitude toward either the advertisement or the brand (Rust, Boorman and Bhalla, 2010).

Although both these research works made significant contributions to the marketing literature, they were confined to the conventional linguistic realm of speech research. The only facet of accommodation under scrutiny was language and the research works overlooked the examination of other facets of accommodation like ethnic spokespersons or cultural symbols in the advertisements. An expanded and modified model which addresses the multicultural customer’s behavioral, cognitive and affective responses to intercultural accommodation of every type. Organizations targeting multicultural audiences do not restrict themselves only to the usage of the group’s native language in their ads, but use a comprehensive range of cultural symbols and communication tools like the ethnic actors, music, traditional dresses, artwork and so forth (Jeffres, 2000).

Glocalization, Localization or Globalization

For various multinational corporations, it is believed that the largest growth sector is in the emerging markets. The decision of multinational corporations to provide their existing services and products across different national horizons results in a challenge of whether or not they can be sold easily to these markets in their original form or is there a requirement to localize or instead glocalize them.  Ideally, for the purpose of taking benefit of economies of scale, an internationalized offering will be preferred; nonetheless, varying attitudes, cultures and expectations might need adjustments to adapt to the local preferences and needs. As per Ooshuizen (2004), an international marketing strategy requires to be considered for the purpose of successfully customizing a marketing message to a particular market in a socio-economic and cultural context whilst preserving the global cultural appeal (Oosthuizen, 2004).

If the multinational quick service chains are considered then they clearly exemplify many of the above mentioned concepts. McDonalds and KFC have at their core, an international product in which everyone enjoys convenience, eats food and aims to satisfy their individual utilitarian needs. Nonetheless, several of their product offerings differ across nations and cultures because of local preferences. McDonalds possesses a standardized set of items which taste similar whether in Singapore, Spain or South Africa. This enables considerable cost savings by means of standardization. The main products are burger and fries. Adapting to the local tastes and needs is then added in the menu taking consideration of the varying local preferences and tastes. For instance, the burgers have been adapted in their preparation, content and taste: McNuggets for vegetarians, Halal for Muslims etc. This implies that whilst the burgers are localized, the notion of a burger is international. Other regional habits are customized like yoghurt drinks in Turkey and beer in Germany (De Mooij, 2004).

The Challenge of Communication Across Cultures

Within marketing, it is essential to communicate a company’s message to its selected audience. Various styles of communication across diverse cultures need paying attention to the promotional mix. The challenge is to render this message as effectual internationally as it is in the home market, and whether to permit local variations within the stringent guidelines. Regional taboos and traditions must be comprehended and circumvented by multinational corporations. For instance comparative advertising is unlawful in a number of nations. The choice of media channels is also highly crucial: for instance, in spite of the high number of Chinese internet users, studies propose that many Chinese people would just not even consider brands which have not been on television first.

Cleveland and Laroche (2007) mentioned that fine tuning the degree of adjustment in communication and marketing to ethnic groups continues to be a prime challenge.On one side, standardized messages may not adequately appeal to the culturally diverse customers, and on the other side, marketers may lose ground with the mainstream customers if extreme level of adaptation is incorporated. Recently, a panel of marketing experts stated that the difficulties facing multicultural marketing are radically shifting from what they were many years ago. All of them unanimously agreed to the point that the increasing Hispanic, African American and Asian communities are representing both key challenges and opportunities for organizations. Multiculturalism has often been viewed as a problem even in the past. In fact efforts were directed toward reducing cultural heterogeneity. Emphasis was placed on the costs and problems entailed in migrants adapting to the regional practices and customs (Multicultural Marketing Faces New Challenges, 2013).

Several of the challenges of marketing to multicultural audiences pertain to marketing mix. Thorough market research must be conducted to find out how the company’s target market can be effectively achieved. It is even essential to take into account cultural dimensions regarding how a target market can be evaluated in context of communicating and appeal of the message. For instance, high uncertainty circumvention (safe and unambiguous messages), collectivist (friends and family centric) and high femininity (focus on less defined roles and equality). In conclusion, in marketing across cultures, there needs to be relevance to the demands of the target audience together with suitable empathy and language (Mead and Andrews, 2009).


In conclusion, it can be stated that the different issues of marketing to multicultural audiences put forth a number of challenges for the multinational corporations. One of the main challenges is to keep up with the transitions, both in the marketplace and from a cultural perspective. In addition to this, globalization has increased the competition from local firms implies that the multinational corporations need to get it correct, frequently with a steep learning curve as well as investment in comprehending the multicultural customers. Certain organizations succeed while others are complete failures. However, the multicultural customers offer both biggest challenge and opportunity for the modern companies.


  • Cleveland, M. and Laroche, M., 2007. Acculturation to the global consumer culture. Scale Development and Research Paradigm. 60(3). pp.249-259.
  • De Mooij, M., 2004. Consumer behavior and culture: Consequences for global marketing. California: Sage.
  • Jeffres, L.W., 2000. Ethnicity and ethnic media use. Communication Research. 27(4).pp.496-535.
  • Xu, J. and, 2004. Ethnic identity, socialization factors, and culture-specific consumption behavior. Psychology and Marketing. 21(2).pp.93-112.
  • Mead, R. and Andrews, T., 2009. International Management. 4th ed. England: John Wiley & Sons.

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