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Standing Out From the Competition: Multicultural Marketing

“Standing Out From the Competition: Multicultural Marketing”

Savvy entrepreneurs won’t ignore the financial benefits of multicultural marketing. This Quick-Read will provide you with ways to attract minority customers.


The combined annual spending power of Asian-Americans, Latinos and African-Americans is $1.5 trillion of the yearly total of $6.5 trillion spent in the United States, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, University of Georgia. The exploding population of these and other minority groups in the United States means the ethnic marketplace will expand even more in the next generation.

Bottom line: Savvy entrepreneurs won’t ignore the financial benefits of multicultural marketing. The following suggestions will help you get ahead of the curve and stand out from the competition.

In this Quick-Read you will find:

  • Ways to attract minority customers.


Your company can embrace multicultural marketing in a variety of ways — many of them free.

  • Consult experts. Use an advertising or public relations agency that specializes in the ethnic groups you’re targeting. They’ll have the expertise to advise you on the do’s and don’ts of multicultural marketing.
  • Build relationships. Use minority-owned businesses for your banking, accounting, legal or other services.
  • Avoid stereotypes and cliches. Design your marketing materials to depict minorities in a wide variety of roles. Don’t, for example, portray African-Americans only as athletes, singers or dancers.
  • Know the customers you want to attract. Marketing to Asian-Americans? Then you need to decide whether you’re targeting people with ethnic roots in Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, China, North or South Korea, and so on. Each will have differing cultural customs and languages. Using the wrong language or cultural symbols could offend the very people you’re trying to attract.
  • Conduct focus groups. Bring together 8 to 10 members of your target minority group. If possible, add to the mix a professional focus-group moderator. Through discussion, explore each individual’s ideas, attitudes and beliefs, plus their reactions to your promotional materials, products and service.
  • Get involved with ethnic or minority communities. Show you care about your customers and prospective customers by partnering with a community organization that’s relevant to them. The NAACP and National Urban League, for instance, would be key organizations for African-American customers.
  • Sharpen your sensitivity to cultural standards and taboos. If you don’t know what turns your ethnic customers off, you’ll never know why they don’t come back. Focus groups and multicultural marketing experts are the best sources of this information.
  • Cut through the language barrier. Have at least one person on staff who speaks the language of each ethnic or minority group you’re targeting. Make sure this person reads everything that the marketing department produces. It may not be possible to have a multilingual employee on staff, let alone several who can speak all the customers’ dialects. If it is worth paying $20 to $100 per customer to communicate briefly in another language, consider using such companies as Language Line Services. Its professional interpreters are available 24-7, providing over-the-phone interpretation service within seconds and in more than 140 languages.


Liliana Miranda Townshend is founder and CEO of tuzona.com, which she calls “e-commerce, Latin style.” Tuzona — Spanish for “yourzone” — is designed to “bridge the gap between the world of technology and the Hispanic market.” The site offers technology products, such as computer hardware, software, books and consumer electronics.

Miranda Townshend designed tuzona.com, a fully bilingual site, for both savvy and novice Internet users. “It provides experienced users with state-of-the art information and product,” she notes. “But it’s also user-friendly to those who are just beginning their journey into technology.”

Visitors can navigate in either Spanish or English. “Our goal is to help educate our customers about technology in general, empowering them to choose products that fit their needs,” says Miranda Townshend. That’s the purpose behind tuzona’s bilingual glossary of technical terms. People navigating the site can look up any terms they don’t understand.

Visitors to the site also can access any of the 30-plus articles on basic topics, such as “How to choose the right monitor for you.” They can ask questions as well through the “Ask your technical expert” section. Articles are then written and posted in response to the most commonly asked or relevant questions.

Miranda Townshend is aware of the rapidly growing Hispanic population in the United States and eager to draw business from Latin America as well. She’ll add a Brazilian-Portuguese language version of the site in 2001, and triple the number of products (currently about 1,000) available to meet her target market’s particular needs.

DO IT [top]

  1. Learn exactly what demographic groups you could and should target. How many potential customers have how much sales potential in each identifiable market segment?
  2. Use focus groups to gather as much information as possible about your minority customers. Compare your findings to your previous assumptions about members of this group. How can you use what you’ve learned to sharpen your marketing strategy?
  3. Join the business organizations and chambers of commerce linked with your target groups. Ask the president or director of each how you can help or get involved in organization activities.
  4. Do research in your own store or place of business by surveying customers to gather any information you need. Be sure to tell them why you need it — “We want to serve you better. What products should we add? What do you like about this store? Dislike?”
  5. Provide support to your target market groups by advertising in such publications as school yearbooks and newsletters. Sponsor local sports teams. 6. Reach out through ethnic media. Gear your advertising and promotional campaigns for the native-language media (newspapers, radio, TV) of your target group. Run an ad in its Yellow Pages.
  6. Learn about cultural nuances so you don’t cause offense and alienate potential customers. One infamous TV commercial featured a woman asking viewers not to hate her because she’s beautiful. This violated a Hispanic cultural more — a taboo against a woman stating that she’s beautiful. The unfortunate merchant lost potential business in the Hispanic community — and wasted valuable advertising dollars.

    Avoid such gaffes by having members of the minority group you’re targeting review your advertising and promotional materials. Their go-ahead will help ensure the success of your multicultural marketing efforts.



Source Book of Multicultural Experts, edited by Lisa Skriloff. (Multicultural Marketing Resources, annual ). A directory of about 150 multicultural marketing consultants

Multicultural Marketing: Selling to the New America: Position Your Company Today for Optimal Success in the Diverse America of Tomorrow by Alfred L. Schreiber and Barry Lenson (NTC Business, 2001).

The Do’s and Taboos of International Trade by Roger Axtell (John Wiley & Sons, 1994). Tips for avoiding cultural gaffes.

Internet Sites

Multicultural Marketing Equation, by Felipe Corzenny et al. Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication, Florida State University, 2006.

New Majority — Marketing to Minorities” in Small Business Success Series Volume 6, “International Trade & More.” (U.S. SBA, 1993).


Andrew Erlich, Ph.D., president of Erlich Transcultural Consultants in Woodland Hills, Calif., does cross-cultural research and training.

Kim L. Hunter, president of LAGRANT Communications in Los Angeles, Calif.

Raleigh Pinskey, Lake Worth, Fla.-based author of 101 Ways to Promote Yourself, (Avon Books, 1997).

Liliana Miranda Townshend, founder and CEO of tuzona.com in San Francisco, Calif.


Multicultural Marketing News, http://www.inforesources.com/; 212-242-3351 or e-mail infobrokr1@aol.com for free sample copy.

Article Contributors

Writer: Kathleen Conroy