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Is Ethnic Marketing the New Wave of Market Strategy?

As the United States becomes more and more culturally diverse, marketers are refocusing the way they promote their products to consumers. How are they doing it? Answer: Ethnic marketing, or implementing a marketing mix that reflects the attitudes, values and preferences of ethnic Americans. Ethnic marketing is on the rise among many major corporations across the country, but McDonald’s is at the forefront of this new wave of marketing by developing menu items and advertising schemes that cater to the ultra-diverse US population.

Based on US Census Bureau predictions, white Americans are heading towards a minority status come mid-century as the growth of other cultural groups increase exponentially each year. Recognizing this market trend is crucial in determining a firm’s market power and potential advertising avenues. It is now becoming increasingly more important to entertain a diverse group of tastes in your marketing efforts.

After months of research and years of watching consumer patterns, McDonald’s has decided to take its cues from the ethnic consumer rather than the ‘traditional’ middle-class Caucasian. Ethnic preferences are historically the tastes that turn into widespread trends for the United States as a whole. By getting away from traditionally-aimed marketing, McDonalds is hoping to stand out from the crowd and market themselves based on the ethnic consumer’s likes and dislikes. These taste preferences will account for the general advertising campaign that will be aired towards the masses. In addition to this, McDonald’s is also planning on catering to individual cultural preferences in the African-American, Asian and Hispanic portions of the population with focused cultural campaigns.

Rather than separate market trends and market to each group specifically, “McDonald’s will take an ad that could be primarily geared toward African-Americans and put a general market advertising dollar behind it,” says Steve Stoute, an advertiser working on McDonald’s marketing account.

McCafe coffee is just one example of ethnic marketing in action.

McCafe coffee is just one example of ethnic marketing in action.

Want to see this theme in action? The recent introduction of new menu items such as fruit smoothies is reflective of the taste preferences in ethnic focus groups. Remember the roll out of the McCafe coffee and espresso beverages in 2009? Many of those drinks are sweet and indulgent, a taste preference that resounds with the African-American community.

So, what’s the bottom-line message to take away from McDonald’s example? Focus advertising efforts on the ever-changing market dimension. As the market continues to become more culturally diverse, traditional marketing methods (which are known for catering to white middle-class Americans) aren’t going to be as well received as in the past. It is now more important than ever to know the tastes and preferences of minority groups!

What do you think about ethnic marketing? Is it innovative or does it simply reinforce stereotypes? Voice your opinions in the comment space below!

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  1. QLP Jill

    I have mixed feelings about ethnic marketing. On one hand, McDonald’s is giving customers what they want, but on the other hand, they are calling attention to race in a huge way. I very much enjoy the smoothies and McCafe coffee drinks just as I’m sure many other people do, but I don’t see what that has to do with skin color. It surprises me that advertisers haven’t faced more of a backlash from this.

    The most important thing is that marketers are bringing diversity into their campaigns and releasing a bigger, better variety of menu items for everyone! 🙂

    I loved this blog post and I learned something new. Keep the hits coming!

  2. QLP Kid

    More food = 🙂

    -QLP Kid

    “It’s How the Midwest was Won…”

  3. Scooby DOO!

    If you are being myopic in your marketing strategy by NOT considering the importance of ethnic marketing, you need to start REFOCUSING right now; Otherwise, I fear, you’ll risk an ignorance-lead demise of your market share.

    You WANT your products to appeal to as many potential customers as possible, because more customers equals more revenue. Right?

    So think through your strategy and make sure your marketing efforts focus in on an ever-changing demographic within your target market. Don’t be afraid to try new things and be innovative with your approach. With risk comes reward.

  4. Vernon

    I don’t think it is a “ethnic marketing”, how many non-health conscious “minorities” are actually drinking these smoothies and coffees that they serve?

    Black people have MANY marketing values associated w/them, “cool” being just one of them. From what I take from the commercials is: “Hey eat/drink this descriptively healthy beverage/food then you too can be as “cool”, have a sunny disposition on life and be as healthy as we are!!!” The same as your average beer commercials.

    If what McDonalds is doing is “ethnic marketing” can the same be said about other products that doesn’t push an all minority cast? Pepsi Co. back in their “extreme” Moutain Dew, Doritos era, would have a white cast playing extreme sports (BMXing, skateboarding, etc, etc…) Does this constitute “ethnic marketing”?

  5. D-Rok

    @ Vern – I see what you’re saying. The marketing Mt. Dew did with the “extreme” sports twist was an attempt to direct their marketing toward a younger more reckless crowd. It’s easier to market a caffeine/sugar packed soda and high-calorie snack foods toward young reckless teenagers than it is to direct it toward health-conscious conservative adults.

    You could also argue that rather than be considered “ethnic marketing,” it could be considered “demographic marketing.” For example: if your business is located in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, you will market your product/service toward Hispanics, but that’s because it’s the demographic for the area. With McDonalds, they market to many different races/cultural upbringings because their restaurants are located in many different demographic markets.

    The reason the term “Ethnic Marketing” is used is because it’s pointing out the evolution from predominantly marketing to middle-class white suburban males to focusing marketing efforts toward a broader spectrum of ethnicities since statistics have shown Caucasians are no longer the demographical majority in the U.S.

    The same can be said about marketing’s focus on sex/gender. As I stated above, a marketing not only used to focus predominantly on white suburban Americans, but on white suburban American “males.” These days, a lot more advertising is designed to appeal to females because women now have high-paying careers of their own and are a valuable group within the U.S. population to draw business from.

    Terms… they are derived from their creator’s personal point of view. The term “Ethnic Marketing” is obviously not as effective in describing the advertising approach in itself as it is in expressing it’s part in the evolution of modern-day marketing.

  6. D-Rok

    Another good question to pose is:

    If you advertise in a predominantly black/hispanic neighborhood in Beverly Hills, California, is your advertisement going to differ from if you were advertising in a predominantly black/hispanic neighborhood on the south/west side of Chicago? If you were advertising to a predominantly caucasian neighborhood in San Fransisco, would it be the same as if you were marketing to a predominantly white town in rural Arkansas?

    Although any level-headed person can see cultural differences between races, I think more emphasis should be placed on location than on race. People in Beverly Hills will likely consume the same regardless of whether they’re white, black, asian or hispanic. The same goes for rural Arkansas; race isn’t going to change the fact that the culture is what it is.

  7. Debt Consolidation

    Thank you so much for your good post.

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