LOS ANGELES: Total-market communications are too often being used as a means of cutting costs rather than as a strategy for truly engaging multicultural audiences, a leading executive from Kimberly-Clark has warned.

Lizette Williams, Multicultural Marketing Leader/North America at Kimberly-Clark, discussed this subject at the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) 2016 Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference.

"Over the past two years, total-market [advertising] has completely taken off," she said. (Get more details in Warc’s free report: Why "total marketing" may be a problem, not a solution.)

But while this approach – which seeks to build marketing programs based on insights drawn from various demographic groups – is undoubtedly popular, there is a clear gap between adoption and implementation.

"It has completely been misunderstood," Williams told the ANA assembly. "It was never intended to drive efficiencies and cost-cutting measures.

"It was actually intended to really drive the effectiveness of messaging, but it's been misunderstood and taken in a whole other direction."

Building on this theme, she suggested that many agencies are now producing what are supposed to be total-market campaigns, but without possessing in-depth knowledge of all the necessary consumer groups.

"A lot of general-market agencies are coming in and taking multicultural work without [stepping up to] the responsibilities associated with doing that."

Williams further proposed re-examining how multicultural audiences are incorporated into analytics, sales data, marketing research and media consumption – all of which under-represent these segments at present.

"We really need to start to reframe and redefine what sort of market [the] total-market approach was intended to [serve]," she told the ANA assembly.

As part of this process, it will be essential for brand owners to become more diverse internally, and help drive progress with their agencies in the multicultural space.

Clients, Williams asserted, have a "need to really drive diversity in the senior-leadership ranks, with the new organisation reflecting the consumers they serve.

"If they're waiting to the point of writing an agency brief and handing the work off … it is way too late in the process."

Data sourced from Warc