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Taking AIMM at the Multicultural Marketplace

Alliance for Inclusive & Multicultural Marketing looks to create a blueprint for the evolution of multicultural and diverse-segment marketing

Part four of a four-part series on multicultural marketing

By Dayton Fandray
At first glance, it seems that multicultural outreach has become an essential part of marketers’ DNA. Ad campaigns regularly feature multicultural families, integrated gatherings of friends, and workplace settings where racial and ethnic diversity are taken as a matter of course. Watch an evening’s worth of television. Pick up a magazine. And then think back to how it was in the previous century. The entire media landscape has been transformed.

This reflects significant progress since 1998, when the ANA acknowledged the changing nature of the American marketplace by creating its Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Committee. “At that point in time, the multicultural arena was exploding because of the demographics, particularly in the Hispanic and Asian-American arenas, and the very large investment that African-Americans were making in the products and services offered by ANA members,” says ANA CEO Bob Liodice.

The ANA demonstrated its commitment to this more inclusive view of the marketplace by holding an annual multicultural marketing and diversity conference and following that up with the creation of its Multicultural Excellence Awards. Despite these efforts, there has been a growing sense that interest in multicultural marketing was slipping off marketers’ radar screens.

“What we began to experience around 2010 was a flattening in the amount of time and attention the marketing community was placing against multicultural marketing in total,” Liodice says. “Social media was becoming hot, mobile marketing was becoming hot, real-time marketing was becoming hot, and all forms of digital were becoming hotter. So those who were interested in brand building were moving on to other areas of marketing.”

Noting this phenomenon, Gilbert Dávila and Lisette Arsuaga, the husband-and-wife team that heads up the consulting firm Dávila Multicultural Insights, began a dialogue with Liodice and the leadership team at the ANA. They expressed their concerns, noting that in their practice they had observed significant gaps in their clients’ ability to address multicultural audiences. While clients understood the importance of multicultural marketing efforts, they were no longer working toward a common goal.


“With the creation of the total market approach,” Arsuaga says, “a lot of companies were executing it in a way that it wasn’t originally intended. There was frustration from the constituency groups that the money that used to be spent in Hispanic, African- American, Asian-American, and LGBT was no longer being spent. What we are seeing is that more money is being spent on the total market.”

These discussions led to the creation of the Alliance for Inclusive & Multicultural Marketing (AIMM). The goal of AIMM is to create a unified voice for the advancement of multicultural marketing by bringing together senior thought leaders from the African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American, LGBT, and general market communities.

“The ANA’s multicultural effort has been a unique platform for advertisers to come and share best practices and insights, and talk about how much more effectively the approach to multicultural marketing could be,” explains Carlos Santiago, president of the Santiago Solutions Group and a board member of AIMM. “However, I think we realized that we needed to become more active in a dialogue about where to take the evolution of multicultural marketing. To do that, rather than being in a conference setting, we needed to convene leaders and engage the C-suite in the conversation. We wanted to get everyone in one circle that would allow for a discussion and a redesign of where we should be in the future.”


Off to a Great Start
AIMM’s first meeting was held in early February. It included 60 participants, representing 36 leading organizations in the multicultural space. Significantly, 80 percent of the attendees were at the VP level or above. To ensure that the meeting included representatives from outside the “choir of multicultural marketing experts,” organizers made it clear that any ANA member executive planning to attend had to bring along a senior-level marketing executive from his or her company.

“It makes me proud as a marketer that as we talk about divisiveness in our country we’re putting something together that brings us all together.”
— Lisette Arsuaga of Dávila Multicultural Insights

AIMM’s intent is to create a blueprint that will bring clarity to the entire industry. “We want to ensure that everyone is swimming in the right direction,” Arsuaga says. “We want to make sure that there’s no discrepancy anymore as far as what total market means and what is multicultural marketing. Do we still have to invest dollars in multicultural when we’re already doing it in general market marketing? Does it matter if Hispanics are speaking English more often? Those are all questions that people are asking day in and day out.”

For the ANA, the AIMM initiative represents an opportunity to better understand the interests of the industry and provide leadership alignment and collaboration. “I would expect an expanded set of opportunities to dialogue, to train, to educate, to provide reliable and meaningful content, to perhaps have unique and distinct publications,” says Liodice, co-chair of AIMM. “There is a plethora of things that could be spawned out of this, including research. I would say that this gives the ANA an opportunity to be more collaborative within the industry and to provide its members with a greater degree of instruction and direction.”

The AIMM blueprint will take shape over the course of the coming year. As Arsuaga notes, at a time when the question of cultural identity is increasingly the focus of national dialogue, the group’s efforts become ever more relevant. “It makes me proud as a marketer that as we talk about divisiveness in our country we’re putting something together that brings us all together,” she says. “There’s not a better time for something like this, and leading by example is what we want to do.”



A Matter of Diversity

The words “multicultural” and “diversity” have intertwined meanings. For marketers, multicultural refers to the racial, ethnic, and cultural differences in the marketplace. Diversity, on the other hand, refers to the composition of the workforce within the organization. Although the meanings are different, the founding members of AIMM argue that an organization cannot effectively reach multicultural markets if it does not embrace diversity within.

“I think focusing on bringing diversity into our industry, particularly within the agency space, is a huge hot-button for me,” says Michael Lacorazza, EVP and head of integrated marketing at Wells Fargo and co-chair of AIMM. “What I have found is that if we don’t have the right mix of talent and voices and perspective at the table we miss something. We miss the insights. We miss a nuance in a piece of work that can really be powerful because we had our blinders on.”

Lisette Arsuaga of Dávila Multicultural Insights agrees: “You have to have a more diverse, more experienced workforce when it comes to multicultural [marketing] in corporate America. People need to know how to embed a multicultural point of view in order for them to provide a different perspective, in order for them to understand exactly what we mean by total market and how it’s not based on casting alone. You can talk to people all you want, but if you don’t have the leadership in place in general market advertising agencies that understand the multicultural space, you’re only going to get so far.”

— D.F.


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