Shifting demographics necessitate an evolved approach in how marketers target minority groups. In part 2 of Michael Applebaum’s article Ethnic Marketing Research, the author grounded his ideas on research suggesting that by 2044, “no single racial or ethnic group will lead the country in terms of its overall size.” Such a change means big things for a multicultural marketing industry that has traditionally focused on cultural differences and ignored the reality of the ambicultural shopper: one who moves fluidly in and out of his/her cultural, ethnic, and American identities. The article cites a study conducted by Geometry Global in which the company set out to illustrate how companies can re-think multicultural marketing.  The study showed that marketers need to tap into commonalities of different cultures while looking through a more “sophisticated cultural lens.” Instead of trying to appeal to the differences between ethnic groups, Geometry advocates for focusing instead on similarities in purchase behavior through this lens.

Geometry studied the purchase journey of different ethnic groups when it came to buying a mobile phone and purchasing a snack. They found that initial purchase steps were similar cross-culturally; each ethnic group began the process by researching online or going to a couple stores. What differed, however, was the reasoning and/or behavior attached to that action as well as the commitment/purpose. For example, African Americans did more in-depth research online: looking for deals, reading consumer reviews, and assessing technical details. Considered Long-Term Oriented (LTO), these behaviors place value on investing in the future. In the case of buying a new phone, LTO shoppers want a product that will last. Comparatively, Hispanic shoppers tend to begin the purchase process with online and/or in-store research and often consult friends or family before making a decision. As marketers develop strategies, using this type of research to understand different shopper mindsets will aid in targeting more expansive audiences.

When it comes to market research, clients often have an idea about from whom they are looking to illicit feedback (i.e. male, 20-45, protein driven, etc.). However, Applebaum argues that, “Instead of trying to reach African American moms or Hispanic males ages 18-29, marketers should be thinking about the shopping behaviors that unify or distinguish these consumers.” It is important not only to understand shared behavior among groups, but also to understand when those behaviors differ and why. Doing so can help to create more effective marketing strategies that can reach wider consumer audiences as the multicultural landscape evolves. Research objectives are often guided by the intended purchaser of a given product. By understanding the similarities and differences between cultural groups, companies may be able to expand the scope of their intended audience and reach demographics they never quite expected.

Posted by: Sierra Dooley, Research Assistant

About the Author REAL Insight

With over 25 years of experience, REAL Insight has led projects across a variety of industries that successfully identified consumer behavior and expectations in context, helping our clients make better decisions.

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