This week, I had the privilege of joining some of the best minds in advertising at ANA’s Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference. Having spoken at this important conference for five consecutive years, I wanted to use this year as an opportunity to address the entrenched habits in how we do marketing, and outline the path to building new habits needed to widen the opportunity for multicultural marketing.
We’ve been talking for years about the wakeup alarm for seizing the growth opportunity in multicultural marketing and making commitments to do better. But we keep hitting the snooze button.
I’m concerned that our industry is still missing out on the tremendous potential of marketing to serve Black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native and Indigenous Americans – who make up 40% of the U.S. population and are growing rapidly. I’m concerned that we’re still only scratching the surface on engaging people with disabilities and increasing visibility of the LGBTQ+ community in our marketing.
But I’m excited too. Multicultural marketing may be the single biggest source of market growth in our industry now and for the next several years, perhaps even decades. Together, we can make sure we’re not asleep at the switch in the coming years and avoid missing the very thing that we want the most in our industry – GROWTH!
According to the 2020 United States Census, 100% of the population growth in the past decade came from increases in the Black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native, Indigenous, multi-racial and multi-ethnic segments of the population. Multicultural buying power is now worth more than $5 trillion and has been THE driver of market growth for a decade.
Market growth is the most important driver of business growth. When markets grow, all brands rise – new users enter the market, consumption increases, and innovation flourishes with new offerings that drive greater usage and potential for premium pricing. When done well, this results in increased income and wealth, which translates to more purchasing power.
We looked at our own brands at P&G to confirm the opportunity. In the past year alone, more than half of our sales growth in North America came from multicultural consumer segments. Among our top brands, we hold the #1 or #2 market share positions in nearly all of the 10 categories in which we compete among Black, Hispanic, AAPI, and LGBTQ+ consumers. It’s a good start and our market shares are in line with the national averages. But we should beware of averages. There is still a lot more opportunity.
A deeper dive reveals several brands with multicultural market shares that are below the national average – we call that the “multicultural share gap.” Simply closing those gaps to achieve shares to be even with the national average would be worth more than $500 million in extra sales annually. I’m hard pressed to find any other opportunities that even come close.
The opportunity is significant, but it is not new. And that brings me back to a concern. We simply have a lot of entrenched marketing habits, and old habits are hard to break. They’re comfortable, safe, and they’ve worked for us in the past – all key factors when you consider how perilous marketing can be in today’s world.
Breaking old habits to build new ones is much harder, so it’s easier to keep hitting the snooze button before getting up and moving to a new way. If we don’t move now, in a few years when multicultural consumers are the majority, shaping culture, with the majority of purchasing power, and driving more growth, they’ll leave brands that didn’t wake up in the dust, wishing they had done a lot more, a lot sooner.
How do we break the old habits and build the new ones needed to seize the significant multicultural market growth opportunity in front of us? We take an objective view of our current behavior, change, and grow.
Habit 1: Change Mindset. We need to break the habit of separating multicultural marketing from the rest of marketing, as if it’s a different activity that we “bolt on” to our mainstream plans. We live in a diverse country with multiple cultures. People’s needs and wants are shaped by the culture they associate with. There is no one size fits all. People are proud of their identity, and they want to be seen and heard. They want us to market to them with precision for what they want, need and deserve – not in a way that is “general.”
In fact, it’s time to retire the archaic term “general” market. “General” is only two letters different from “Gener-ic,” and our job as marketers is to be distinctive, not generic. The general market IS the multicultural market in America.
So, it’s time for a new habit – build multicultural marketing into fabric of everyday marketing, don’t bolt it on. Multicultural marketing IS mainstream marketing.
Habit 2: Inclusive Research. We need to break the longstanding habit of doing consumer research through a “representative base.” This habitual, almost reflexive focus on “rep base” is historically skewed to over-represent Caucasian demographics – with Black, Hispanic, and AAPI consumers consistently under-represented, and with little to no consideration of Native and Indigenous people, LGBTQ+ individuals and people with disabilities. Since everything we do starts with the consumer, we won’t have sufficient understanding of the problems to solve for and jobs to be done if our consumer research is skewed and is not fully diverse. We’ll miss the 40% of the consumers we serve who are people of color and the 20% of people with disabilities, and bypass the unique needs of the sizable LGBTQ+ community.
For example, exploring the habit of washing hair is not as simple as the traditional “lather-rinse-repeat” approach. This “rep based” term misses what the “wash day” ritual is for Black women – from the number of steps in her process, to the types of products she uses, to how she uses them. Breaking the “rep base” research habit and going deep into understanding the needs of each individual consumer group results in true insight. By stepping forward, we’ve launched unique products like Pantene Gold Series and the My Black is Beautiful brand, which have been developed for the textures and condition and habits of caring for Black hair.
We must demand TRULY representative research – which is an inclusive research base with at least 40% people of color, roughly 50% white, with considerations on people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community. This enables going deep into every individual group to understand their unique habits, practices and needs in order to develop specific products and marketing programs to meet those needs.
Habit 3: Diverse Media Reach. To reach consumers with our marketing and ultimately convert them to purchase, we must break the longstanding media reach habit that solely relies on national averages to benchmark general market buys. We must beware of averages.
Ask yourself – if you’re reaching more than the 60% national average, why are there gaps in market share? Is it sufficient to simply be reaching a percentage of multicultural audiences that’s slightly above the average? Where are we reaching them – national TV or social media? How much is in programming or content that resonates, like in Black-Hispanic-Asian-Pacific-Native-owned media?
Let’s establish the new habit of truly diverse media reach, which means going for 80 to 90% media reach among each multicultural consumer group to close the share gap.
Habit 4: Three “R’s” – Representation, Relevance, Resonance. Do the individuals in your advertising and brand content reflect the population you’re serving? Find out by auditing representation of roles in your advertising over the past year. A recent audit of P&G brands showed casting of 29% Black characters. We felt good about that, since the population is about 13%. However, we had only 9% Hispanic, 7% Asian-Pacific, and 0% Native and Indigenous. Only a handful of ads included people with disabilities or identified as LGBTQ+. It wasn’t good enough. This exercise is forcing us into a new habit of ensuring full, diverse and inclusive representation of the people we serve in all of our ads and content, at least equal to the percent of the population.
Representation isn’t enough – we need the habit of ensuring relevance in every ad, marketing message, and program on which we advertise. Representation without relevance is meaningless at best and can be viewed as pandering at worst. While we see more diversity in ads and programs today, we need to get into the habit of ensuring that every person is accurately portrayed – no stereotypes, no objectification, no diminishing. That requires getting into the habit of discovering unique and meaningful insights into the benefits that matter to each individual group.
Old Spice is a good example. For years, we questioned why our market share was so low among Black men despite featuring Black actors in our ads. While the over-the-top humor was funny to some, Black men or women wanted to see Black men represented as sophisticated and smooth, not brash, and loud. So, we uncovered the unique insight around a desire for products with real benefits like moisturization and fragrances he prefers, and then added some fun tension about guys not being great at sharing their personal care products. This campaign, Men Have Skin Too's "Is that my Old Spice?" and "Mother-In-Law", has ignited growth among Black consumers, and for the entire brand, because it’s not only representative, it’s relevant.
Let’s commit to the habit of representation with relevance. It matters, and it drives growth.
Finally, we need to build the habit of Resonance which applies to the programs on which we advertise. We need to break the habit of trying to resonate with multicultural consumers in programming developed for the national average. Consumers are far more engaged when they’re watching programs made uniquely for them. Across Black-owned media programming like on TVOne, The Grio, and Stellar Awards, as well as on Black-targeted media such as BET and OWN. Across Hispanic-owned like Univision and Spanish Broadcasting Systems; Asian-owned like Asian Media Group, and Native-owned media companies like Native America Calling. But here’s the problem – less than 5% of all media is in multiculturally-owned companies, versus 40% of the population.
This must change. That change requires major systemwide interventions, and we all need to step up to develop additional meaningful habits that lead to building resonant programming for our brands to create an ecosystem that enables winning with multicultural consumers. I’ll illustrate with Black-owned media, which today represents only 1% of all media in the U.S.
First, build new partners. Start asking and demanding to know who the Black-owned media companies are. At P&G, we asked our Purchases and agency partners to get a comprehensive list of companies to help us build even more direct business relationships. We’ve subsequently dedicated a full internal team to work with our agency partners to develop the multicultural media ecosystem and make direct partnership plans and deals with top partners. I personally meet with this team frequently to review progress and resolve issues, and spend personal time building partnerships with the CEOs of the media companies. These efforts have enabled us to develop strong partnerships and have led to the development of entirely new ideas that are changing the game.
Second, don’t wait for ad inventory to appear at low CPMs, build programming through co-development. This is the newest habit and perhaps the most challenging to build. But it’s necessary because there is currently not enough media inventory in the Black-owned media ecosystem – less than 1% of TV and digital and less than 5% of radio media inventory. Waiting for ad inventory to materialize could take years. We need to step up and invest in co-developing programming content to create inventory to advertise on.
That’s why we’ve launched “Widen the Screen,” a content creation, talent development, and partnership platform that enables increased representation and inclusion of Black creators across the advertising, film and media industry. The program is founded on a call to action to “widen the screen, so we can widen our view” with content that portrays the full joy, beauty and vastness of Black life – not simply reinforcing commonly held stereotypes of struggle, trauma, or excellence. Our immediate focus is expanding the ecosystem for Black creators and media companies, and we’re reapplying to Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native and Indigenous communities.
This program includes “The Queen Collective,” our signature multicultural talent development initiative designed to open doors for emerging Black women directors and their crews through mentorship, production support, and distribution. We also created a platform for experienced Black creatives and filmmakers in partnership with SATURDAY MORNING and Tribeca. This helped create four short, scripted films, each told in 8 minutes and 46 seconds, reclaiming the time it took to take a Black man’s life, through life-affirming stories of joy, beauty, love, and resilience.
These films along with our substantial Partnership Development Fund, are widening opportunities for hundreds of Black creators and helping to expand the size of the ecosystem by producing more programming content, to build larger audiences and create additional ad inventory for brands to buy.
Habit 5: Investment. At P&G, our goal is to have the number one brand in every category among Black consumers – and to accomplish that, we intend to be the number one spender in Black-owned media AND to significantly expand the ecosystem. We’ve made partnership investment deals with the top media companies. We’re investing money in program content development. And we’re enabling automated programmatic media buying for companies to unlock spending.
In two years, we’ve doubled our spending, and we intend to continue doing so until the percent of spending is more in line with the percent of the population. We also intend to extend this approach and widen the opportunities for Hispanic, Asian-Pacific, and Native-owned media companies. Investment in these companies creates more relevant, resonant and effective media to build our brands. It also contributes to economic inclusion, which drives more purchasing power and leads to market growth.
I’m convinced we can seize the enormous multicultural opportunity in front of us by breaking old habits and forming new habits. Have a mindset that multicultural marketing IS mainstream marketing. Convert to inclusive research habits. Achieve truly diverse media reach of each group. Implement the 3R’s of representation, relevance through accurate portrayal and unique insights. And resonance in programming by building new partners, accelerating co-development, and increasing media investments. All of these new habits will enable us to widen the screen to widen opportunities for multicultural growth.