NEW YORK: Over half of US advertisers are currently implementing some form of total market strategy but there is no widespread agreement on what such an approach entails, a new study has suggested.

The trade body AHAA: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing surveyed 321 marketing professionals from client-side, general and multicultural specialized ad agencies, media buying agencies, public relations and consulting firms. Preliminary results indicated that there was widespread familiarity (78%) with the term and 54% of advertisers were implementing a total market strategy, with half of these applying it company-wide and half at a departmental level.

But the AHAA also noted that the concept of total marketing was confusing to many and should be defined more uniformly. It outlined some common ground on which such a definition could be built, including drawing on universal truths that spanned all segments of race, culture and sexual orientation, while leading to greater efficiencies and effectiveness.

In fact, nine out of ten executives thought that the primary purpose of a total marketing strategy was to balance effectiveness with efficiency and that this had led to the emergence of two main models.

One was based around integration, with multicultural aspects included in every step of the business process and marketing execution, the other around adaption, with the same idea being adapted to different audiences using the same budget to reach all segments.

Walmart was an early adopter of the integration model, with the company announcing in 2011 that it was taking its multicultural marketing budget out of its silo and integrating its responsibilities across all business units.

There is some evidence that a total market strategy does produce results. According to the AHAA, among the companies surveyed which are taking this approach, 66% reported incremental results in increased market share, efficiency and revenue growth.

Speaking at the annual ANA Multicultural Marketing and Diversity Conference, Gilbert Davila, CEO of Davila Multicultural Insights, argued that "embedding a multicultural perspective into all of our efforts is not a choice, it's a necessity".

And Marelena Peleo-Lazar, chief creative officer at McDonald's, also endorsed this approach. "When we take the time to invest our resources to understand the points of view of the ethnic customers, we make smarter decisions that promote our brand in the best possible way," she said, in remarks reported by Advertising Age.

Data sourced from Advertising Age, AHAA; additional content by Warc staff