21 September 2006

Targeting the ethnic market

Marketing and advertising professionals, internationally, recognise the importance of ‘targeting’ (to consumers) while creating effective marketing and communication strategies. In this regard, it’s said that direct and 1-to-1 marketing specialists are better at it than most communication professionals, as they actually reach out to individual consumers (in flesh and blood, and by name) through personalised communication and the tools they use. The rest of the industry is left to do the best they can with the media options available to them – newspapers, magazines, TV, cable, outdoor, the world-wide-web, etc.

To be good at targeting, communication specialists (and, really, everyone in sales and marketing) need to know a great deal about the consumers they target. The effectiveness of their communication, and the response to it, depends on it. However, this is no easy task. When you look at the millions of consumers in your country, many of whom you may not want to target in your communication because they do not fit your brand/consumer profile, the task can be daunting. The problem becomes more complex when you need to reach out to various ethnic consumer segments with your brand.

The United States, which leads the world in advertising, invests a lot on research to find suitable ‘targeting’ models. The hope is to reduce the ‘chance factors’ in formulating marketing strategies and designing communication packages tailored to reach a specific target audience effectively. The strategy and the communication differ according to the brand and the target market; and there are questions, of course: What specific consumer segments is the brand addressing? How different are they? Does one communication reach and make sense to all segments? Are there any ethnic consumer segments – i.e. consumer segments with cultural differences – which need to be addressed?

American brands and advertising have mainly tailored their communication to the white American. Over the years this has changed, and their advertising has gradually included the African-American, with several brands – not to mention extensions and variations of existing brands – specifically created to sell to the African-American consumer. Today, American marketers and advertising agencies realise that the ethnic market holds a much bigger promise than the white market. Largely made up of African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans, the ethnic market in the United States is growing at a faster pace than the mainstream white American market, and is a potentially huge market.

The question is, can America find a successful formula for marketing its brands to this growing ethnic market?

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