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Avoid These 5 Multicultural Marketing Mistakes

Posted by Chuck Hajj, Executive Director on Mar 16, 2018 9:03:00 AM


Multicultural marketing is fundamental to maximizing audience reach. By limiting your brand to a specific demographic based on culture or language, you’re likely overlooking significant outreach opportunities in your marketing strategy.

To ensure an effective approach to multicultural marketing, avoid these five mistakes.

1. You Get Lost in Translation

Accurate translations may seem like the most obvious way to reach a multicultural audience, but we’ve seen a number of brands make big mistakes over the years.

  • American Motors launched a campaign for the Matador in the early 1970s in Puerto Rico. While in English, matadors are associated with bravery, style, and strength, in Spanish, matador translates directly to “killer”—and buyers noticed, with car sales plummeting in Puerto Rico.
  • When the American Dairy Association was planning to replicate its “Got Milk?” campaign in Spanish-speaking countries, the slogan was unfortunately translated to “Are You Lactating?” Luckily, the unfortunate translation was discovered and resolved in the market research phase.
  • Parker Pens launched a marketing campaign in Spain, and while their English slogan was “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you,” it didn’t quite translate that way. Instead, the Spanish slogan read as “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”

We can look back and laugh at some of these brand blunders, but this is a marketer’s biggest nightmare. 

The best way to overcome any potential translation issues is by leveraging in-language expertise for effective communication. Instead of relying on Google Translate, be sure to consult with a native speaker before you launch your multicultural campaign.


2. You Don’t Research Audience Metrics

You know what you want your audience to buy—but it’s important to understand how they’re going to buy it.

Multicultural marketing is all about metrics. An effective strategy requires an understanding of your target audience's country of origin, their cultural history, their neighborhoods, their generation, and any other cultural differentiators that may dictate your branding approach.

Some of these insights may seem familiar—even if you’re looking to launch a domestic campaign, you need to understand your customer’s buying history and preferences—but when it comes to multicultural marketing, your data needs to go a step further.


3. You Rely on Only One Language

You’re likely researching multicultural marketing tactics because you don't want to alienate customers with non-inclusive campaigns. 

One of the biggest mistakes multicultural marketers make is by focusing solely on bilingual audiences.

You may be able to recognize the most commonly used language regionally, but if you rely on the two languages spoken by, say, 75% of the population, then you’re overlooking 25% of potential buyers. 

In South Asia, for instance, there are seven different commonly used language families. You may be including some new customers in your strategy with single-channel translation, but if you’re looking to maximize outreach, know your target audience, and speak their language(s).


4. You Overlook the Difference Between Culture and Ethnicity

“Multicultural” marketing is based on understanding cultural differences, but some brands have confused the difference between culture and ethnicity.

Some brands will rely on ethnicity demographics to determine who their target audience will be in a multicultural campaign without understanding how culture is developed or defined. 

Your ethnicity is an authentic part of your identity, but your culture can adapt to where you live, work, and find your passions. Your buyers may identify as non-Hispanic white, but that doesn’t determine their purchasing patterns.

Understanding your audience’s culture beyond their language and ethnic background is a fundamental part of any effective multicultural marketing strategy.


5. You Change Your Voice—and Your Tone

You may change the language, target, and impact to appeal to different cultures, but it’s important not to lose sight of your brand.

Your target consumer group should be able to recognize your brand, but so should your general audience. Don’t sacrifice brand recognition in the name of expansion.

Looking to strengthen your outreach without weakening your brand? We can help.

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Topics: Marketing, Multicultural