Tips: Marketing to ethnic groups

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Research by MCC, a specialist multi-cultural communications practice, found that 75% of black, 63% of Asian and 54% of Chinese people believed that consumer brands were not aware of how to market to individuals from ethnically diverse backgrounds, compared to 31% of white people.

We live in a multicultural world and you can capitalise on this diversity through campaigns that are bespoke, specific and well targeted, and get great results.

Here’s a selection of top tips to create a successful campaign when marketing to ethnic groups.

  1. Research your audience
    You can’t market to an ethnic group without understanding its beliefs, cultural interests, traditions, consumption patterns, attitudes and decision-making habits. In order to do this, you could contact local councils and source community leaders to talk to, go on a fact-finding mission on the internet and read local newspapers, magazines and websites. There are websites like Catch A Vibe, (opens in a new window) and forums like UK Asian (opens in a new window) and the Black & Ethnic Minority Community Care Forum, (opens in a new window) which are dedicated to specific communities and provide a wealth of useful information.
  2. First- or second-generation communities?
    When researching your audience, it’s essential you understand whether you are targeting first- or second-generation communities, and those that follow, as this makes a huge difference when it comes to cultural outlooks and options. First-generation individuals were born in their own country and then moved to the UK. Subsequent generations were born in the UK and, for this reason, are more likely to be comfortable with British culture than their first-generation relatives who may adhere more strongly to their traditional roots within the multicultural landscape.
  3. Location, location, location
    If the ethnic community is in a concentrated area, then the chances are residents have more traditional views than those dispersed within other communities. For example, the East Africans community in East London is very concentrated, so if you were planning a very culturally specific door-to-door or direct mail campaign particularly geared towards the first-generation East African community, this could be an ideal area to target.
  4. Use the right language
    Is English always OK? It’s important to understand when it is, and when not to make assumptions. Many ethnic groups don’t get mailshots targeted at them – and in their own language. And conventional marketing methods like billboards have its limitations. You’ll greatly increase your chances of grabbing their interest if you make this effort. If you decide a language other than English is more suitable, there are many translation houses available. It may also be worth running the tone of voice and concept of your campaign past a community leader to make sure you’ve got the message just right.
  1. Capitalise on the power of word of mouth
    Word of mouth is very strong among close-knit communities. For this reason, it’s essential you make a good impression first time round. Having made a positive impact, word of mouth can do all the hard work for you. If the buzz you’ve created is strong enough, you might even find yourself in community-focused newspapers, like ex-mayor of London Ken Livingstone. He added Polish food to the menu at City Hall in a bid to win the Polish vote and the initiative then made the front pages of Polish-language newspapers.
  2. Remember cultural holidays and National Days
    Pinning a campaign on an important date in the year, like Eid for Muslims, or Chinese New Year can be very profitable. A few years ago, Lufthansa launched a campaign to promote its online booking system, targeting the push at immigrants to the US. It sponsored events around Norooz, which is Persian New Year, brought Iranian singers and musicians to parks where the community was celebrating the day and raffled tickets to Iran. Three months after the launch of its new website, Lufthansa reported 190,000 visitors and generated revenue that was 91% over target. ‘We absolutely saw a spike in bookings and travel following these events,’ a Lufthansa spokesperson said. ‘When a few people find out, it spreads like wildfire.’

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