From the mind of Jessy Smulski
Super Bowl Sunday came and went. The rally cry, ‘Fly, Eagles, Fly’ was heard across the nation. Justin Timberlake crushed the halftime show. And we collectively ate an estimated 1.35 billion chicken wings. Fun (and heartburn) was had by all. But for marketers and savvy business leaders, there was a more significant takeaway than the Vince Lombardi Trophy. While football fans used time-outs to hit the restroom, grab a beer, and refill the chip bowl, we tuned in to watch the main event — the commercials.
The consumer market is a patchwork of races, ethnicities, cultures, and values. People have different beliefs, experiences, and ways of communicating. They have contrasting standards, wants, and needs. And they aren’t afraid to voice them. Without getting political, our country is also deeply divided at present.
How were these Super Bowl-worthy brands going to connect and convert an audience this gigantic, diverse, and disjointed?
We’re not talking about a few hundred thousand people, here. These ads potentially reached 103 million attentive viewers! And at more than $5 million for a 30-second spot — just imagine the ROI at stake!
Can a single ad face this much adversity and still generate enough purchase intent?
Is it possible to create content that’s universally relatable?
Did I just see Chris Pratt in the background of a Michelob Ultra commercial?
Yes. The answer is yes.
It’s called multicultural marketing and if the internet is your oyster, consider the following to be a bonafide pearl of wisdom.
What is Multicultural Marketing?
You might know it as diversity marketing or generalize marketing. They all have the same objective — to communicate effectively with all different types of people at once. Instead of adapting the market to the message (as we often do with persuasive writing and imagery), multicultural marketers conduct loads of research and use multicultural context to inspire campaigns.
A lot of businesses are getting multicultural marketing wrong. For example, they use the same marketing campaign but swap out the featured people to appeal to a specific race. E.g., a Hispanic-facing ad features Hispanic people, then exchanges imagery using the same logic to appeal to another culture.
People, our business minds need to be more evolved than that! The games have changed and in this millennia, we aren’t shooting for the individual and immediate sale. Our new mission is to focus on building stronger loyalty and lasting customer engagement. Surface-level demographics shouldn’t be entirely ignored, but they aren’t nearly as powerful as a person’s past experiences, values, ideals, and perceptions.
How To Get Multicultural
Typical Super Bowl-spurred marketing advice aside, the ads showcased on that first Sunday in February serve an important purpose. They validate which “trends” are effective and predict where the future of marketing is headed. Without a doubt, multicultural marketing has arrived!
Here are three simple steps you can take right away to shift your marketing strategy and become more inclusive.
1. Widen your perception of culture.
Cultural groups are not homogenous, which means relying on surface-level demographics could result in accidental insults. Technology affords us way too much visibility to be categorizing people solely based on age, skin color, etc. Instead, we should categorize audiences based on what they consume, and how. We have foodies, yogis, gamers, and TV fandom (shout out, Thronies!). In music, we have Beliebers, Deadheads, and Beatlemaniacs. Your customers aren’t going to fit perfectly into little boxes, but they are forming independent mini-cultures around your industry. Figure out what has them connecting with one another, and your brand can get in on the action.
2. Join the conversation but table the sales pitch.
If you want to understand your multicultural audience, spend time interacting with them on the same social media sites. Observe and join in on conversations. Watch what they’re watching. Listen to the same music or podcasts. Pay attention to what news and media stories become the centerpiece of their discussions. Your enhanced understanding of who they are and what they care about will undoubtedly reflect in marketing campaigns.
3. Focus on universal values and themes.
The truth is, we’re all just people made up of the same elements, trying to live fulfilling lives. And we all have more in common than we realize. Focus on messages that transcend race, ethnicity, gender, and culture. For example:
- Love for animals
- Self image
Examples of Killer Good Multicultural Marketing
MassMutual: Stand By You
The news has become a negative place for many of us. It’s one story after another about someone doing something terrible. That’s why MassMutual’s “Stand By You” ad gave us all the feels. It recapped some of the incredible feel-good stories of the year; stories about people putting their differences aside to help one another.
- Bikers escort bullied boy to first day of school.
- Teens start lunch club so no one has to eat alone.
- Synagogue welcomes Muslims after mosque is torched.
- Strangers rush to help strangers in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
These are just a few of the headlines featured in the 2-minute commercial, which is already collecting tens of thousands of views online in addition to the national audience it received on Super Bowl Sunday.
Why it worked: This ad coaxes viewers to “take down their walls” without even realizing they’re doing it. It reminds us that in a world filled with bad, there’s just as much good. Inspired by the real-life stories of everyday heroes, the ad becomes a call-to-action for us all to help protect one another in the face of adversity or disaster. This is a message that transcends race, ethnicity, gender, and culture.
We all share a strong desire for self expression. That’s part of the reason why social media is so widely exercised. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…they each provide a platform for us to show off and express ourselves. Knowing this, Kraft devised a campaign that is so brilliant it’ll be the talk of multichannel marketing for years to come.
They took social media (loved by all types of people) and paired it with the concept of family (a universal value). Then, they created a contest for…(drum roll)…a chance to appear in the official Kraft Super Bowl commercial!
The entire concept was explained in their preliminary ad, "You Could Be In”, which served as publicity for what they were attempting to do — create a Super Bowl ad in realtime. The rules were simple:
- During the 1st half of the game, take a photo or video of you and your family watching the Super Bowl.
- Post it to social media and tag it with #FamilyGreatly and #KraftEntry.
- Watch for your picture or video in front of millions of people during the 2nd half of the Super Bowl.
The results? Kraft Super Bowl Commercial 2018 is a beautiful mix of people and family structures. It ends with a powerful, unifying message:
“We gave our Super Bowl commercial to families like yours, and together, we proved there’s no one right way to family. There’s just your way. And that’s pretty great.”
Why it worked: When “going viral” became a thing (shout out to Evolution of Dance) it meant that anyone could get a piece of the spotlight. Ever since, people have been doing all sorts of things hoping to become an internet sensation. Whacky, imaginative, gross, hilarious, dangerous things.
Kraft provided a fast track for audience members to “go viral” by leveraging the millions of people tuned in to the Super Bowl. They chose a value that is universally treasured. And they brought in social media to give their audiences a way to engage with one another and the brand. They took an opportunity to make one touchpoint with audiences and turned it into many. More remarkably, they created a multicultural social gathering that audiences didn’t even know they were attending. The ad closes with a final message of Kraft-made comfort and care:
“We’ll be there for you tonight, and every night that follows.”
Yes, you will, Kraft. Yes, you will.
The rise of multicultural marketing has been in the making for years. Now more than ever, audiences are demanding it and, based on what we saw earlier this month, leading companies hear them loud and clear. It’s time to replace surface-level identifiers with more sophisticated attributes like values, interests, and behaviors. Predictably, this heightened degree of understanding won’t be easy. It requires persistent research, a killer strategy, and a skilled team of observationalists who recognize the need for change. Don’t be afraid to bring in a third-party team to diversify your messaging. Sometimes, an outside perspective is all you need to see and connect with new opportunities.
Now that you have your messaging figured out, brush up on your SEO skills with this article: What Are The Top Google Ranking Factors?