September 13, 2018

  By: CMC Research Chair Nancy Tellet

With major issues in the headlines affecting the multicultural community, there is no shortage of information sharing and social activism—both with in-person protests and social media fundraising. For example, according to the Washington Post, one in five Americans have protested in the streets or participated in political rallies since the beginning of 2016. Of those, 19 percent said they had never before joined a march or a political gathering.

Now, we aren’t advising brands to go political, but it is important to listen to your customers and know what’s important to them. According to the Culture Marketing Council: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing (CMC) study Digital Lives 2018, about one-third of Hispanics and non-Hispanic African-Americans (NHAA) see, share and comment on social media about issues specific to their ethnic communities. In addition, more than half of all millennials have “broken up” with a brand with lack of trust being a top reason.

So who’s doing it right?

Take Target, for example, and the way it handled last fall’s debate over DACA and the status of dreamers. Instead of sitting the debate out or rushing to publicly take a stand, they conducted a series of listening sessions. CMO Rick Gomez made it a point to attend as many as he could: “It was incredibly powerful—very raw, lots of emotion—as people shared what these issues mean to their families, friends, co-workers and communities,” he said.

During Target’s annual meeting, CEO Brian Cornell pledged that Target would stand with the Dreamers and a few days later, the brand officially joined other businesses in calling on Congress to pass legislation to protect the Dreamers. This example not only demonstrates the power of both listening and taking action, but it also shows the importance of brands in today’s environment. According to Gomez, “We can use our voice to sell things and be advocates for something bigger.”

Brands can also use their power during times of crisis. Sprint, for example, was a major sponsor of the “Somos Una Voz” benefit concert, raising funds to rush food, shelter, medicine, power and communications to those suffering from the effects of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and Hurricane Irma in Florida. During this time, Sprint also waived fees for long distance texts and calls for people in disaster areas to help them communicate with loved ones during this difficult period. This and other vital multicultural activations earned them numerous accolades, including the 2018 CMC Marketer of the Year and ANA Multicultural Excellence Award - 2017 Hispanic Grand Prize winner.

Alberto Lorente, multicultural marketing director for Sprint, gave this advice at the 2018 CMC Annual Conference, “While it is extremely important to have a consistent brand strategy, and to focus on what is going to bring business to your company, it is essential to challenge ourselves and try to stand out from the crowd, and to do this you need to take calculated risks. You need to trust your agencies to bring the best from them.”

Whether or not your brand is looking to increase its corporate social responsibility efforts or is looking to get involved in issues that matter in the multicultural community, it is vital to have a team of culture marketing  experts giving you the right advice. Cultural gaffes, like last year’s misguided attempt by Pepsi to portray Kendall Jenner in amidst a protest reminiscent of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, could easily have been avoided had there been enough marketers with trusted culture expertise at the table. The lesson here is to keep “doing the right thing” central to your strategy,  listen to your customers, let your specialists advise you and help you navigate the proper course of action. Let your brand drive value not only for your shareholders but also for society.

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