Despite the best efforts of Superstorm Sandy, last week Warc attended the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) 14th annual 2012 Multicultural Marketing and Diversity Conference.

The conference played host to a lively debate over multicultural marketing - both the scope of the term, and its relevance at a time when multicultural audiences are becoming the mainstream.

For one, the program dug deeper into more cultural pockets beyond African-Americans and Hispanic Americans – the two cornerstones of past ANA multicultural assemblies. The program examined programs such as Verizon's outreach to Asian-American consumers, and both Johnson & Johnson and Allstate offered case histories about their engagement of LGBT audiences.

But the session also proposed to examine the practice of multicultural as well as the audiences it intends to reach. Specifically, Ogilvy & Mather (O&M) used the occasion of the conference to introduce a new 'Cross-Cultural Report' that argues for a fresh perspective on reaching pockets of consumers whose combined strength – in numbers and purchase power – present an ever-increasing challenge to American marketers.

"There's a major disconnect between brands and their consumers," declared Jeffrey Bowman, O&M North America's Cross-Cultural practice lead. Noting that when the various multicultural segments become the majority segment of consumers – or what O&M has called the 'New General Market' – "they will represent more than a $10 trillion shift in spending power."

Ogilvy grounded its model in interviews with "clients and stakeholders in both the current general market and multicultural spaces," said Bowman. What's more, the agency analyzed the ways in which more than 100 brands were marketed to Hispanic, Black, Asian-American and LGBT audiences separately.

The study noted, "We found our research complicated by the shifting boundaries between the general and the multicultural markets. The clients we interviewed found it difficult to pinpoint a transition point between their efforts to serve the two audiences."

The report distinguishes five "key strategies" that "provide a structured way of looking at how brands increase relevancy and equity measures over time."

  • Cultural community
  • Cultural currency
  • Cultural authenticity
  • Cultural confluence
  • The cultural loop

(The full report is available on Warc.)

Bowman contends that traditional 'multicultural' advertising focuses too tightly on the differences between pockets of consumers instead of working to discover what those groups have in common.

Follow the Event Reports page for coverage of the ANA multicultural conference, including more debate around cross-cultural versus multicultural approaches.