Last Updated Mar 15, 2010 8:24 PM EDT
A recent Knowledge@Wharton article, "Cents and Sensibility: Why Marketing to Multicultural Consumers Requires a Subtle Touch," discusses research conducted by Wharton marketing professor Americus Reed II, as well as Stefano Puntoni and Peeter W.J. Verlegh of Erasmus University's Rotterdam School of Management.
A few takeaways:
- Don't mix symbols: The researchers found that second-generation Dutch-Chinese who considered themselves part of two cultures reacted negatively to "incongruent" symbols (e.g., a Caucasian spokesperson interacting with Chinese monuments). This incongruence has the potential to negatively affect buying decisions.
- Don't overdo it: While there's nothing wrong with using cultural symbols in marketing efforts, it needs to be done without pandering or, even worse, condescending. Remember the Taco Bell Chihuahua? "Taco Bell was trying to tap into some ideas that were in line with the cultural milieu, but it was not done in a tasteful way and there was a backlash," said Reed.
- Take advantage of sponsorship opportunities: The researchers give Coca-Cola props for sponsorships that appeal to multi-cultural demographics, such as the World Cup and Spanish-language soap operas.
Image courtesy of Flickr user pamelaadam, CC 2.0.