NEW YORK: IMAN, the beauty brand, is connecting with smart and savvy multicultural shoppers by emphasising factors beyond their ethnicity.

Since being launched in 1994 by its eponymous founder – and famed supermodel – Iman, the firm has primarily aimed its products at groups like African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans.

While these audiences usually fall under the rubric of multicultural marketing, IMAN's messaging recognises that it is the individual's skin tone which is most relevant in the beauty space.

"It's always the same message, because it's always about your skin tone," Desiree Reid, IMAN's general manager and svp/brand development worldwide, told delegates at a recent conference.

"In beauty – especially with women with skin of colour – that skin tone overlaps in many of the areas." said Reid. (For more, including how IMAN launched a product on YouTube, read Warc's exclusive report: IMAN hits the sweet spot in multicultural marketing.)

Reflecting this beauty truth, IMAN's products are described using terms like "clay", "earth", and "sand", rather than the more traditional "light", "medium" and "dark".

Despite this, some cultural factors – such as the need to run ads in Spanish to reach certain consumers – do play a key role in the company's thinking.

"This is where cultural differences must come into play," said Reid. "Skin tones, we understand, overlap, but how the message is delivered and interpreted is impacted by our cultural differences."

IMAN is also aware that members of its clientele typically possess a lot of beauty knowhow, given they are used to working out their own solutions, having often been underserved by mainstream brands.

"Women with skin of colour are much smarter about beauty, because they've had to really learn their beauty regimen," said Reid.

"There were very few points of reference for them to go to: you couldn't walk into a department store and find ten brands, with everybody clamouring to give you advice. Therefore you found the information yourself."

Data sourced from Warc