While diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts to work with minority-owned media companies and hire a diverse workforce are important, brands also need to address a rapidly changing cultural landscape in the United States, according to Isaac Mizrahi, co-president and COO of Miami-based multicultural ad agency Alma Ad Agency (no relation to the fashion designer).
“Diversity and inclusion, without addressing the marketplace from a more multicultural standpoint, may not be enough,” said Mizrahi, whose agency works with the likes of Pepsi, McDonald’s and Netflix. “Conversely, multicultural marketing without diversity and inclusion may not happen as effectively as it could with a more diverse organization. The two go hand in hand, but they're not the same effort.”
In other words – brands who don’t hire a diverse workforce may be blind to the market opportunity they’re missing. Recent census data shows the country is growing more diverse and urban, with the Hispanic population representing more than half of that growth.
Brands and holding companies aren’t putting enough emphasis on multicultural marketing strategies, Mizrahi said.
Some brands, he added, are just not having that conversation yet. Some conflate multicultural marketing with DEI.
“Some people confuse them – they’re not the same thing,” said Mizrahi, a native of Brazil. “We've seen companies say, ‘We have a diversity and inclusion officer, and we are more diverse.’ And then we ask, ‘But you're still not investing in multicultural marketing? You're not investing in culturally relevant outreach programs to consumers?’”
AdExchanger spoke to Mizrahi.
ADEXCHANGER: In the wake of the Black Lives Matter social justice movement, are brands changing their thinking when it comes to multicultural campaigns?
ISAAC MIZRAHI: I think it opened the door for conversations. I’m supportive of the social justice and equity debate. If some clients or prospects came to us to talk about multicultural marketing because of that, that's great.
What we’re trying to show them is you should consider multicultural marketing as a business opportunity.
We don't only want the little budget that you have for community causes. We want your core budget associated with your growth.
The percentage of companies that invest in Spanish-language advertising in America today is only around 6%. That’s based on Nielsen advertising data. We are 19% of the population – that is a significant gap.
Investments are not aligned with the importance of the segment, and the importance that the segment brings from a growth perspective.
Many say that DEI starts at the executive level. How could that help drive multicultural marketing?
The more diverse your company is, you’re more open to understanding that different consumers bring different attitudes and behaviors that can impact your business. More diverse people and executives at an organization, from top to bottom, may initiate this debate inside a company. And as a consequence, your organization may be better equipped to serve a more diverse market.
With recent census data showing that the US is becoming more diverse, how should brands and agencies be preparing for that cultural shift?
If Caucasians are your core customer base, that core is shrinking and I’d be extremely concerned.
Just for that reason, companies really need to revisit where their growth is coming from, the segments that are driving that growth and, more importantly, what they are doing to actually better cater to, and understand, these segments.
The reality is, specific groups of people bring with them attitudes and behaviors that may influence the way they see a brand.
For instance, in healthcare, pharma, and health and wellness, Hispanics and African-Americans overindex in specific conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease.
How can marketing address this situation? We know that Hispanics tend to underindex when it comes to prevention and preventive medicine. Diabetes, for instance. If you identify that disease early through preventive medicine and go to your doctor, you may be able to reverse the situation.
And that [behavior] is a little bit cultural. I'm from South America, and so many times I’d hear my father say that the more you go to the doctor, the more likely the doctor is going to discover issues that you don’t have.
Is that where culturally relevant marketing would come in to reach those audiences?
Yes. For instance, healthcare campaigns can talk about the power of preventive medicine. Beyond healthcare, there’s food and beverage. Sometimes Latinos prefer spicier foods, or sometimes we prefer natural ingredients.
If you are a restaurant or company doing a new type of food, understanding the best flavors, tastes and preferences for a booming population may allow you to prepare better dishes, products and ingredients.
What kind of data does Alma use to build multicultural campaigns for its clients, aside from census data?
We focus on consumer insights. We invest in a significant amount of data, we do our own research and subscribe to in-depth qualitative groups. We do a deep dive by category and industry.
For instance, in health and wellness, we look at the patient journey, comparing a Caucasian consumer with a Black or a Hispanic consumer, and where they converge on similarities and where they diverge.
We look at consumption data from Nielsen, Kantar or MRI. We always try to understand the story behind the numbers. Is it a distribution story?
Sometimes people come to us and say their market share with Hispanics is lower – a CPG company, for instance. We’ll do research and ask, “How is your distribution footprint? Do the minority consumers that you want to reach have the same access in terms of point of sale? What is your radius distribution in ZIP codes that are more diverse?”
A very important question we ask is whether you are a part of the community. Not from an advertising standpoint, but whether the brand is part of the fabric of the community.
Which companies are doing it right?
McDonald’s. They’re the gold standard of multicultural marketing across QSR [quick-serve restaurant]. A lot of companies are still debating whether to invest in multicultural marketing. McDonald’s has been investing not only in advertising, but in the community and products that are relevant to the community.
What are some of the challenges around targeting in multicultural campaigns from a privacy standpoint?
Identification is very relevant, but we know that identification can be used against the segment in terms of discrimination. What we've been trying to do as much as possible is to focus on culture … I think more and more companies are going to be moving away from an ID, cookie perspective to a more cultural environment in order to address their communications.
This interview has been edited and condensed.