When you think of Chevrolet, you probably think of mountains, horses, and cowboys—masculine white men who drive off the beaten path. You probably don’t think about diversity.
But last year, Chevy decided to change that. As part of its “Find New Roads” campaign, the company aired an ad featuring gay and interracial couples. The real kicker was that the ad aired during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, which had already drawn attention to Russia’s anti-LGBT laws. The theme of the commercial was “the new us.”
Chevy CMO Tim Mahoney said the campaign would “reaffirm that Chevrolet is a new company with a new way of thinking.”
This was a smart move on Chevy’s part. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, nearly 40 percent of the American population is African-American, Hispanic-American, or Asian-American. With that many citizens who aren’t of European heritage, it’s vital that companies and agencies start expanding their market reach.
The Growing Need For Diverse Marketing
Of course, this is easier said than done. Multicultural groups have different values, cultural norms, and preferences. Even using the word “multicultural” isn’t an accurate definition of the broad range of audiences available today.
After decades of marketing to the white suburban family of the ’50s, reaching out to include these new markets can seem intimidating. But companies that take the leap into new marketing segments are seeing great returns. When marketers reach out of their comfort zones, they find larger fan bases that become loyal to their brands simply because they were willing to reach out.
Audience diversity encompasses considerations of more than just race and sexual orientation. Interests, hobbies, reading habits, and music preferences are just a few examples of areas where diverse audiences can be discovered and developed. But in today’s climate, race, sexual orientation, and body type are the three main areas in which movement is happening.
For example, beauty and fashion were once the sole property of tall, skinny white women. But Lane Bryant and Dove have both launched campaigns that showcase women of different ages, races, and body types. When these companies started to reach women who didn’t fit the mold, they garnered support from a segment of the population that was happy to say, “Darn right! I’m beautiful, too.”
According to Advertising Age, Chevy's campaign put the company back in the minds of a whole new generation that had once written the brand off. When you take the risk of diverse marketing, you open your brand up to new possibilities. I call it a risk because you could experience hateful backlash.
For example, Cheerios ran a series of ads that showed interracial and gay couples having breakfast with their kids. The brand had to disable the comments section because the racist and bigoted comments were over the top. Cheerios stuck to its plan and kept the campaigns going, and eventually, the haters got tired and stopped their banter while the brand continued to build its fan base.
How To Incorporate Better Multicultural Marketing
Of course, the campaign you launch has to be authentic. Many brands that attempt to show different faces in commercials are accused of doing “token” advertising, and that’s the last message you want to send. This happens when people seek to make their brand look like it supports diversity instead of being a brand that actually does support diversity.
Crafting an emotionally appealing, authentic campaign aimed at new audiences does require some planning and a deep understanding of the market you’re trying to reach.
Here are a few points to consider when you’re branching out:
1. Be as informed as possible: Immerse yourself in the potential markets. There are a wide variety of ethnic and social groups to include in your multicultural campaigns, and knowing about each and every one of them is vital. This will help you make informed decisions about whom to target and when. It will also help you figure out how to divide the groups in your campaigns.
2. Know your audience: This is basic marketing advice, but it’s especially important when you’re trying to reach groups you aren’t familiar with. Who are you trying to reach, and why? What are their hooks, and what will they call your bluff on? Seek to understand cultural symbols, holidays, and taboos so you can successfully reach the people you want to find. Remember that your audience is comprised of real people, not just big data. Meet the people you want to market to if you aren’t already personally acquainted with them.
3. Count the costs: Reaching outside of the norm may bother people—including members of your own team. If you know this going in, you’ll be better prepared to handle any pushback. The pushback usually comes because moving outside of your standard tactics takes time and effort. Your team is going to have to think differently, do more homework, and stretch its capabilities. It’s important that you count the actual costs, though. Learning new markets can be time-consuming and expensive. Your returns may not be immediate. Opening new markets is a long-term strategy, not a one-off campaign.
4. Find your partners: If you want to reach certain groups, partner with the organizations and brands they already trust. Word of mouth is the most powerful tool you can cultivate, and associating your brand with the brands your target market already trusts will significantly boost your chances of success.
5. Keep it real: Whatever you do, be real. Don’t incorporate multiculturalism in your campaigns just for the sake of it. Be authentic, and as you expand your customer base, don’t forget to promote that diversity in your own company.
Like the marketing executives at Chevy realized, diversity is a fact of life in America today. And like Cheerios learned, you need some courage and fortitude to earn the new audiences. The expanding diversity in our country provides an opportunity for a rich and interesting culture, and with a little practice, your marketing can be a part of this new reality.