In the past, multicultural marketing and brand purpose were often siloed within organizations. But as these topics converge on a complex, diverse consumer landscape, it’s crucial that companies devise more integrated strategies. Brands must find new ways to understand their customers outside of traditional segmentation, first-party data and other means.
A recent study, jointly conducted by our firms, BRANDthrō and The Axis Agency, uncovered current views on diversity and multiculturalism among 180 millennials. BRANDthrō uses data science to score and measure emotion. The research builds on three traditional segments of cohorts that we call “emotional lookalikes” — Caucasians, Caucasians + other and Hispanic + other.
Within consumer segments, “emotional lookalikes” let brands reach new customers because they add emotional contextualization to create more individualized experiences that drive more meaningful engagement.
By precisely scoring emotion using artificial intelligence, data science, neuroscience and machine learning, we were able to understand how people feel and thereby know how to directly address their desires and concerns. Brands that meet these consumer needs will engender consumer love, trust and loyalty.
We discovered that most people do not want to be targeted by demographics alone.
We see multiracialism and a commitment by brands to stand up and act versus just speaking about meaningful types of change being demanded by consumers on issues that matter most to them like mental health and food insecurity.
Our research shows that many millennials want brands to acknowledge the full spectrum of cultural diversity. Furthermore, they believe that multiculturalism requires leaders to be knowledgeable and open-minded about different cultures, so they can understand different people’s backgrounds and help them work together.
Brand respect for consumer cultural identities
In our study, 40% of respondents said they could see themselves switching to a brand that demonstrates an understanding of how those respondents identify culturally. This tells us that brands need to understand and respect cultural identity. Notably, the survey showed that multicultural millennials are identifying as culturally fluid, meaning they may have been raised in multicultural families and feel connected to more than one culture. Cultural-fluidity and self-identification around it will likely continue to rise in importance.
Nearly 30% of the consumers we surveyed said they would stop doing business with a brand that isn’t purposeful. In their current form, notions of purpose no longer meet consumer expectations, in part, because they don’t recognize cultural fluidity.
One of the most interesting points in the survey captured this notion by pointing out that, when consumers shop for a car or other high-price item, if they do not feel they are properly culturally identified, they will not make the purchase. Brands have an opportunity to connect with multicultural consumers in a very profound and lasting way.
Our data suggests that “purpose washing” — companies whose words and deeds don’t match — will no longer suffice. Companies must start addressing the issues most on the minds of consumers today, such as equal rights for women, health equity, access to treatment for both mental and physical health and food insecurity.
All targets emotionally resonated the most with the definition of health equity as every person being able to achieve their full health potential. People in the Caucasian segment also prioritized financial inclusion, while the “Hispanic + other” segment emotionally engaged with the notion of techquity and bridging the digital divide.
Half said they would be more likely to do business with a brand that stood up for significant national issues such as school safety, affordable housing and women’s rights.
Data from the study suggests that, if brands are to succeed, they must reimagine traditional consumer segmentation and commit to seeing the multicultural audience for who they are and what they care about.
Rather than rely solely on what they think they know about consumers, marketers need to introduce emotional understanding to the mix, which can enable individualized consumer experiences at scale.
Brands that embrace data-backed approaches enabling them to have more agile emotional intelligence capabilities will be the ones who will attract and retain customers by differentiating themselves from the competition.
Julie Harkavy Fisher is the chief customer officer at BRANDthro, where she leads customer advocacy and growth. She is a growth-driven marketing executive with a 20-plus year track record of achieving significant results that exceed expectations and projections.
Armando Azarloza is the CEO and co-founder of The Axis Agency, an award-winning U.S. multicultural marketing agency. Before launching Axis, Azarloza was executive vice president of Weber Shandwick, and former press secretary to U.S. Rep. Buck McKeon (CA), the former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
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