Writer: Issac Morales
In my 20 years of advertising I've seen the pendulum swing from side to side when it came to brands understanding the true power of multicultural. I've seen what I believe are three stages over the course of my experience in Hispanic marketing. The first, I dub: "The Beginning" and while multicultural marketing had been going on much longer than before I started my career in 2000, the idea of dedicated efforts to address multicultural was still in its infancy for most brands. It was during this era when many agencies had to roll up their sleeves and showcase just how important it was for brands and marketers to cater to the multicultural segments. The best tool to tell that story came with the Census data that reviled a Hispanic boom that most marketers couldn’t ignore any longer. The first efforts were often based on translating or trans-adapting the general market campaigns in-language. Yet even then, most of us knew that there was an opportunity to do more than just scratch the surface to make a connection with these ever-evolving consumers.
This gave way to the “Golden Age”, which I consider to be the hay day of Hispanic advertising. Many brands had ethnic brand managers and multicultural departments that you didn’t have to convince or sell on the idea that ethnic marketing was a necessity. This was when agencies were allowed to do some of their best work. Work that was different from the General Market campaigns for all the right reasons while staying true to the overarching brand message. Work that was based on insight with unique selling propositions that catered to the target. It was a move in the positive direction where brands started talking “to” ethnic consumers not “at” them.
Those were the days.
Yet, those days were unfortunately numbered. Enter the latest phase, which I call “The Post-Apocalyptic: ‘Total Market’ World of Advertising.” This phase is driven by the Great Recession and the idea that total market meant reaching everyone with the same brand’s message. While in theory I believe that there’s merit to this approach in its purest form, that belief is held by the fact that it works best when multicultural can influence the general market. When you really look at it most of American culture is driven by ethnic culture in some shape or form. Think food, music, and art.
"A total market approach may save production dollars, but hurts brands when connecting with our Hispanic audience - as well as lose media investments since these won't work as they should due to lack of relevance. Our strong buying power consumer deserves the be spoken to in-language and in-culture." - Silvana Massolo, Partner and Managing Director
It quickly became apparent to most of us in the business, however, that total market didn’t mean that, so much as it meant showcasing faces of color all smiling and enjoying the product the brand was selling. Sacrificed in this approach were connection, insight and relevance. Some brands even tread dangerous waters as cultural appreciation gave way to cultural appropriation. Budgets became harder to come by as they were often part of a larger initiative and multicultural became a box that was simply checked.
"Enlightenment. In this phase, we can take the best of what made the “Golden Age” great and adapt it to the changing times, while meeting the needs of today’s modern consumers." - Issac Morales, President of Inspire
Considering all that’s transpired with the pandemic and protests, now more than ever, brands need to move to a new phase. Let’s just call it: “Enlightenment.” In this phase, we can take the best of what made the “Golden Age” great and adapt it to the changing times, while meeting the needs of today’s modern consumers. Some brands are already on this road and fortunately at Inspire we have the pleasure of working with some of them. Yet as an industry, there’s still a great deal of change needed and there are plenty of good multicultural partners that are out there wanting to see change come.