The multicultural moment

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Givi Topchishvili
Givi Topchishvili

Acrucial lesson from the US presidential election was the power of Hispanic American, African American, Asian American, and LGBT voters to shape its outcome, pushing President Obama over the goal line and into the White House for a second term.  The President had a multicultural strategy, and it worked.

It's no secret that the face of America has changed: today one third of our citizens consider themselves “American Plus” and within 30 years this will likely increase to 54%. This transformation will influence every aspect of business; from information technology to health care. Those choosing to ignore it will be left in the dust.

When discussing impactful and ROI-driven cross-cultural marketing programs, we need to understand three factors: (1) cultural barriers—what prevents our audiences from receiving your message and taking action; (2) cultural cues—what resonates and is relevant; and (3) cultural windows—that is, cultural influences that can be leveraged.

Before you start examining these three factors, think about why you are reluctant to invest in multicultural marketing. Is it the size of the market? The gaps in statistical data? An underwhelming result of an initial cross-cultural test campaign?

The question isn't whether you should or should not do it—the size of the market has already dictated that answer. Today, the question is how to do it successfully.

Here are some steps to lock in success.

1. Define your opportunity—one that's worthy of investing in based on your product [or service] characteristics.

Does your therapeutic area have a higher prevalence among Hispanics, African Americans, South Asian Americans, or, perhaps, Russian Americans versus individuals ­generally?  Your investment—and the return on it —will depend on that knowledge.

2. Find the ‘I'—Armed with insight and knowledge (whether gathered, bought, or hired)—define the appropriate ‘I' (of the ROI) specific to a market AND the disease state to ensure your ‘R' is at its highest.

3. Know Your Patients' Journey—How does your target market's culture affect its consumption habits? While Hispanics and African Americans have lower diagnosis and prescription-drug-use rates (calling for patient education efforts), Asian Americans and Russian Americans skew higher in those categories, so you can jump more quickly into branded initiatives to secure loyalty.  Other factors include the importance of religion, the role of the community and the influential role of mass media influence.

4. The education opportunity—African Americans are a third more likely to get hypertension and 50% more likely to suffer stroke than the general population. These numbers suggest huge needs for disease education programs that can be supported by industry.

Is there a risk associated with multicultural marketing? Absolutely, especially if it is a last-minute effort to boost sales.  Perhaps, for your category—in your current business cycle—cross-cultural marketing is not a priority. But if your category calls for it, make a full-blown commitment. Trying to get by with a half-hearted approach will not do the trick; but a strategy rooted in research, insight and knowledge will guarantee a return on investment, a return on influence, and a loyal, more educated, healthcare consumer.

Givi Topchishvili is president of New York-based multicultural marketing agency Prime Access and CEO of Global Advertising Strategies.
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