For years, businesses have struggled with multicultural marketing. They've either relied on a catchall approach of adding multicultural representations to an otherwise monocultural strategy or simply translated an existing campaign into other languages with the appropriate cultural context.

But both of these approaches fail in one crucial aspect: They have no real target audience.

In September, AHAA: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing (in collaboration with the Association of National Advertisers and the Asian American Advertising Federation) clarified the "Total Market" approach with a consensus definition that incorporates all individual target markets under a comprehensive strategy.

Today, if your business isn't adopting a Total Market strategy, you run the risk of being ignored by the majority of multicultural consumers.

Why a Total Market Approach Beats Generic Marketing

Anyone who's seen a United Colors of Benetton ad understands how multicultural advertising can miss the mark. When you unroll a campaign that attempts to reach all demographics at once, you run a hefty risk of not appealing to anyone.

On the other hand, niche ads that are highly segmented and in-language often suffer from a generic treatment that doesn't resonate with the target audience because the creative process stopped immediately after translation.

Utilizing a Total Market approach means beginning campaign planning with a complete understanding of a diverse consumer and including multicultural audiences in your focus without relying on a one-size-fits-all approach. This requires dividing your team into multiple smaller teams--each tasked with one specific audience--and making sure they all adhere to the larger strategy.

The benefits of recognizing a Total Market are far-reaching. First and foremost, businesses that communicate this way stand a greater chance of reaching consumers with relevant messaging. Second, gaining exposure to a wider variety of products and services improves consumers' lives. Effective communication breaks down barriers to essentials such as healthcare, financial products, and educational resources.

How to Take Advantage of the Total Market

The Total Market approach is all about remembering that there's more than one type of consumer you're trying to reach. To ensure your campaign appeals to your diverse audience, remember to:

  1. Reset and review. Step back and consider whether you have truly begun campaigns and strategies from the standpoint of the Total Market.
  2. Bring everyone under one roof. Whether you're relying on an in-house marketing duo or working with several agencies to execute your strategies, it's critical to get everyone on the same page.Think of your marketing strategy as a potluck dinner, where everyone has something to contribute. Focus on developing more specific approaches within smaller, demographically targeted teams.
  3. Avoid the "rainbow." Challenge your teams to work together to define multicultural segments that aren't limited to race or ethnicity.
  4. Research. If your marketing team isn't intimately familiar with the cultural nuances of your diverse customer base, you're guaranteed a poor ROI. Invest in tools like Simmons and Nielsen, and conduct customer focus groups to navigate unknown territory.
  5. Test. Consider testing your Total Market campaign in a smaller market before rolling it out on a national or global scale. Track your results, and return to the drawing board if they fall short of expectations.

While many companies are floundering with the catchall approach, there are a few big brands that are getting multicultural marketing right. Coca-Cola and Western Union communicate with their audiences in whatever language they speak in a voice that's perfectly attuned to their specific culture.

Every culture is unique, which is why it's so important to give your multicultural audiences the attention they deserve. Instead of handing them secondhand content that was made with someone else in mind, focus on appealing to them specifically in a way that aligns with your overarching strategy. Introducing the Total Market approach to your business will help you expand your reach and introduce your brand to an entirely new market of hungry consumers.