Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How Should Brands Give Back in a Multicultural Market?

Marketers frequently ask how their brands can give back to a community to create good will and enhance their brand's position. The answer to the question is complex, but one of the ways of trying to address it is by asking consumers of different cultural and acculturation backgrounds how they rate different actions that brands can take in order to give back.

In 2012 with the cooperation of Research Now and the leadership of +Melanie Courtright, we again collected an online national sample composed of Hispanics and Asians born in the US and those born abroad, in addition to African Americans and Non-Hispanic Whites. We used the country of birth as a proxy for acculturation to see if technology adoption varied accordingly.

We asked respondents to rate different actions that companies can take to give back as follows:
“When a brand gives back to a community, which of the following are most and least important contributions from your perspective? Please rank in order, from 1, most important, to 5, least important, each of the following items.”

The following chart shows the total across all respondents (indicated by the blue bars) and for each of the culturally unique groups (indicated by the colored lines) for the rank of “Most Important” in regard to the following possible brand actions:

  • Provide jobs
  • Give scholarships
  • Help clean the environment
  • Keep jobs in the local community, and
  • Employees get free time to do community service

The rank shown is just the “Most Important” for each of the items. The totals for each culturally unique or acculturation group add to slightly more than 100% because each item was rated independently.

The first surprise is that the differences across culturally unique and acculturation groups is relatively small and that these cultural groups agree on the priority of the items.  The number one priority across the board is that the most important contribution that brands can make is to provide jobs to the community, followed by keeping jobs in the local community. It is perhaps not surprising that these two items have the highest priority given the economic downturn that most Americans have experienced in the recent past.

At a distance the next two priorities for brands are to help clean the environment and give scholarships. This does not necessarily mean that these are not important brand contributions, but that jobs are a more prevalent contribution at this time.

Interestingly, giving employees free time to do community service was ranked as top by the smallest proportion of respondents in each cultural group. This is perhaps due to the lack of visibility that such action may have as a contribution.

What are the lessons from these findings?

  1. Cultural groups and those at different levels of acculturation tend to agree on approaches that brands need to take to give back to the communities where they operate. Clearly, the implementation of providing jobs has to be by cultural group in order to satisfy the expressed sentiment of these consumers. Creating jobs is not enough but creating jobs that satisfy these segments individually.
  2. At times of economic distress there are actions that consumers feel are important but they subside to the more pressing issues of the time. While cleaning the environment and giving scholarships are important, jobs take preeminence in economic downturns.
  3. Marketers are encouraged to emphasize how their brands contribute to employment of these different cultural groups with specific emphasis on the local community.

The data for this study was collected by Research Now of Dallas, Texas, thanks to the generous initiative of +Melanie Courtright. Research Now contributed these data to the research efforts of the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication at Florida State University (+Hispanic FSU). This online survey included the responses of 936 Asians (398 US born), 458 African Americans, 833 Hispanics (624 US born), and 456 non Hispanic Whites. This national sample had quotas for US region, age, and gender to increase representativeness.