What Procter & Gamble has learned about multicultural marketing

By Elaine Wong

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Hell yes, multicultural marketing matters! And if you were at Monday's "Making Multicultural Matter" Advertising Week session, presented by Procter & Gamble and Wing (the latter being a multicultural marketing agency owned by Grey Group, part of WPP), you'd surely think so, too.
  Alexandra Vegas (pictured here), multicultural business development organization director at P&G, shared a few case studies—and compelling reasons—for why advertisers should pay attention to ethnic minorities. Vegas, who hails from Venezuela and has worked as a beauty-care marketing director in P&G's Latin America and China markets, discussed how multicultural marketing insights helped drive growth on brands like Charmin. The toilet-paper brand earned an Effie Award last year for a campaign that promoted a premium brand, Charmin Ultra Strong, to the value-oriented Hispanic consumer. The work introduced a new character, Gaston, a beaver who uses too much toilet paper, to communicate the value inherent in the premium-priced product (i.e., consumers don't have to use as many sheets). Thus, P&G was able to convince the Latino consumer to "buy a more expensive product," Vegas said.

  Marketing successes like these wouldn't have been possible if P&G just targeted Hispanics with a general-market advertising campaign, Vegas said. In some cases, a general-market approach can work, but more often than not, the most successful multicultural campaigns involve delving deeply into the needs of ethnic consumers, said Alain Groenendaal, president and CEO of Wing, the agency that has helped P&G launch many of its multicultural efforts. (The company has been active in the space for nearly 50 years.)
  As an example, Groenendaal, who was previously general manager and CMO at La Comunidad, another Hispanic marketing agency, cited the three different approaches the agency and P&G take when targeting multicultural consumers.
  "Ethnic leads" applies in instances where a particular campaign or product is intended to reach a particular set of multicultural consumers. (Gillette, for instance, recently ran a campaign to get Hispanic consumers to trade up from disposable razors to grooming systems.)
  Sometimes the general-market strategy leads, but even then, cultural nuances must be taken into account. When running a Gain ad, for example, the packaged-goods giant played up the idea of humor as "dry" and "self-deprecating" in mainstream media spots. (The ad shows a lady pulling her neighbor's freshly hung blouse over for a quick "sniff.") A Hispanic adaptation of this spot, meanwhile, shows a woman walking outside her house to see another lady literally absorbed in the smell of fresh underwear on her clothesline. (The latter runs when she's discovered.) The second version plays on humor that is "much more in the face, slapstick," and both spots work best within their respective contexts, Groenendaal said. "If you try to adapt a spot like [the first one] among Hispanic consumers, they wouldn't get it at all. And vice versa, if you ran the Hispanic ad in the general market, consumers would think it's over the top," he said.
  The third multicultural marketing strategy applies when ethnic insights lead marketing for a general-market campaign, and though the effort may be "important for all target groups, it's particularly important for the Hispanic or African American market," Groenendaal said. (Many of the value-driven ads P&G ran during the height of the 2008-09 recession stemmed from this approach.)
  For those who have yet to be convinced of multicultural marketing's power, Groenendaal cited a few surprising statistics: Salsa has now replaced ketchup as the top U.S. condiment. And as Vegas outlined in her presentation, ethnic consumers comprise the majority of the population in most major U.S. cities. Also, two out of every five U.S. residents will belong to an ethnic minority by 2020.

Related: Check out Adweek's Diversity Special Issue, published this week.