Sherine Patrick
Feb 22, 2024

Why marketers should ditch multicultural marketing efforts

Why are we treating diversity as a niche interest? Sherine Patrick—media director, strategy and stewardship at McKinney, opines.

Photo: Shutterstock.
Photo: Shutterstock.

In 2020, brands made bold commitments to be more intentional in meaningfully supporting diverse communities. 

But fast forward to 2024, and “multicultural” efforts are struggling. 

Market research firm PQ Media expects U.S. multicultural advertising spend to grow 8% in 2024 to reach $45.83 billion. 

But, in this day and age, what should we even consider “multicultural” vs. “general” marketing? 

The 2020 census reported that nearly 40% of the country identifies as non-white—and since marginalised groups are often undercounted in census reports, the actual percentage is likely much higher. 

Regardless, multicultural audiences represent a significant portion of the country in the U.S.—meaning “multicultural marketing” and “general marketing” should be one and the same.

Inclusive marketing helps brands avoid the risk of alienating or offending certain groups. But the very idea of multicultural marketing sets marketers up to create a silo and makes the idea of supporting these communities a task—and therefore dispensable in a budget.

But we know that inclusive marketing works. A Deloitte study of 11,500 global consumers found 57% said they were more loyal to brands that demonstrate a commitment to addressing social inequities in all their actions, and respondents 18 to 25 years-old said they take significant notice of inclusive advertising when making purchase decisions. 

Inclusive marketing translates to business growth: Deloitte also found that brands with at least 10% annual growth rates “more frequently [establish] key performance metrics for diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) objectives” than competitors with lower growth rates. It's not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do! 

Brands and agencies should make their general market assets inclusive and reflective of nations, rather than creating separate assets for each demographic. When people can see themselves represented in a campaign, they feel valued and connected to the brand, thus building the loyalty and long-term relationships marketers hope to foster.

Agencies that integrate inclusive practices into their strategic thinking early on in the planning process—rather than making inclusivity an afterthought, checkbox or siloed project—will lead the pack in the future. With 36% of CMOs stating that one of their top priorities is “expanding into new markets, segments or geographies,” inclusive marketing is the only way to meet those goals. 

This is going to require hiring and retaining diverse talent. Deloitte’s data shows 23% of high-growth businesses have “established ways to measure diversity in their hiring.” 

Fostering a diverse workforce not only contributes to growth, but brings a variety of perspectives, experiences and ideas to your business. Inclusive marketing involves understanding the needs and preferences of diverse groups. One of the best ways to do that is by having people who live in those groups working on campaigns. 

When I worked at Mindshare, we created the first suite of inclusive programmatic private marketplaces (PMPs) in 2020. These would not have been conceptualised, created or implemented successfully if diverse people were not involved.

Diverse hiring must extend to leadership as well. Multicultural employees often don’t see themselves reflected in leadership unless it’s a DE&I role, which can leave them feeling undervalued and without potential for career growth.

Embracing inclusivity in marketing can help businesses foster a culture of innovation that ultimately leads to more effective work for clients. Identities are not tentpole events—we are who we are 365 days a year. 

Agencies that are proactive about weaving this thinking into their everyday business practices will surpass their counterparts in creating resonant general-market work. 

Because multicultural marketing IS general marketing.

Sherine Patrick is media director, strategy and stewardship, at McKinney.

Sherine Patrick, media director, strategy and stewardship, McKinney. (Photo used with permission)

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