Thursday, March 25, 2010

All Marketing is Cultural

Many marketers still ask the question: What is different about marketing to Hispanics, Asians, African Americans, etc.? Isn't marketing just marketing?

Marketing is marketing but few marketers consciously realize that what they do is cultural marketing. So when they target women with children, they are really addressing a subculture in the United States.  When they address young people they are addressing another culture within a culture. When they target middle class homeowners they are not just addressing a so called "demographic," they are addressing a culture.

There is little awareness of what a culture is. A culture is a set of designs for living that are shared by many people, and sometimes those designs for living are passed on from generation to generation.

Most advertising would not work if it were not cultural. The marketer attempts to connect with consumers who share something in common, but the "demographic" is not what they share in common, it is the way of being, thinking, doing, valuing, and feeling.

Thus, it should not be surprising that to reach out to Latinos, for example, the marketer needs to understand their culture. And that is profound because it goes to the core of who people are. That is what ethnic marketing consists of. It is the understanding of the culture and the contextual issues surrounding it. It is different because the culture is different, but also because it is a lot harder to market to a different culture than to the one you are part of. See, culture is like water for the fish, we are seldom aware of it. We think a joke is funny just because it is funny. Not so, a joke is funny because it is culturally bound. A joke is funny to a group of people who share a culture, and not to others. An emotional appeal is emotional to those who share a common reaction to that appeal.

When the marketer crosses cultures s/he needs to make many assumptions explicit. There is no more obviousness of water to the fish. The fish needs to become aware of the water in order to succeed. That is what has to happen with marketers. They need to step out of the comfort of their own culture to be effective in another. That is why it is so difficult to do cross cultural marketing.

But, all marketing is cultural, and it is hard for many to realize that. So, now, why do we need to make special efforts to market to Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, etc.? Because they swim in different waters.


markman2008 said...

All of what you write is so very true. It still surprises me how many "old-school" marketing managers find a way to avoid targeting the Hispanic market. This is a huge untapped resource for all companies. Their newest generation, "Generation Equis," will hopefully be discovered and marketed to once the newest census data is available. Of course, forward thinking companies will be marketing to them before that!

Marcelo Salup said...

There is no difference, of course, in the same way that a partiture can apply to many instruments. Nevertheless, there are nuts and bolts differences in langugage, imagery, messaging, key points... by the same token, there are no "Americans" and a message that will persuade say, a 25 year old clerk in a gas station in Iowa will not persuade a 25-year old clerk in a gas station in the Bronx... never mind a 25-year old recent MBA Graduate in Huntington Beach.

We are beyond the issue of marketing, I think, and entering an era of massive micro-marketing

Frankie De Soto said...

Great point Dr. Korzenny, culture is an important factor when building campaigns to communicate an intended target market. Companies need to sped the time to do in depth research on their target market before they spend thousands or millions on campaign that might negatively affect their reputation. Consumer behavior and buying power should also be taken into consideration with cultural study as well.