General Mills seeks to engage the new American family

Stephen Whiteside

Sometimes life gets in the way of multicultural marketing. "So much of our culture is influenced – whether it's in fashion, or entertainment, or sports – by the African-American community," Douglas Moore, vp/advertising and branding at General Mills Inc., told delegates at the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Multicultural and Diversity Conference in late 2013. "And yet sometimes we sort of partition them off when we're actually doing things."

Moms and families traditionally have dominated General Mills' marketing communications. But as the "typical" American family is rendered increasingly obsolete by social change, so has the company endeavoured to generate a more modern image for many of its brands.

Fostering close relationships with retailers like Walmart has helped General Mills take a "grassroots" approach to studying shoppers, and – consequently – to strategize on a "market-by-market, store-by-store level to understand what's going to work in the different markets". This is a vital concern in areas like Miami, which houses a large Hispanic community and offers a distinct marketing challenge.