The Importance of Cultural Fluency

While multicultural audiences are becoming key drivers of growth, many brands are still struggling with how to  accurately predict what resonates and what doesn’t with people of color. Only 5% of media spends goes to multicultural audiences, and 64% of African American and Asian American and 52% of Hispanic audiences are not satisfied with how they are portrayed in the content. David Wellisch, co-founder and CEO of Collage Group,  a consumer research company that works with brands like Twitter, Coca Cola, Nestle, and more and uses machine learning and facial tracking to reveal critical differences in emotional response to ads  in different demographics, explains the importance of “cultural fluency.”

Why does only 5% of media spend go to multicultural audiences?

Consumer brands are aware of the demographic landscape shifts that this country is undergoing. They know that 100% of the population growth and 75% of the expenditure growth has come from multicultural consumers. However, they also have their proprietary segmentation models that are based on psychographics and brand usage models. At best, brands apply multicultural overlays on top of their segments.  At worst, demographic overlays are not part of the equation, missing a significant opportunity to connect with their target markets’ identities, which should have an important impact on response rate.

Is it common for content that appeals to one group be a turn-off or even offensive to another?

We see this happening all the time in our AdRate analysis of video ads. It does not mean that companies are not able to create advertising that resonates with multiple segments at the same time.  However, that can only take place if they understand the cultural traits of the different segments and their responses to different  treatments. This is where machine learning can help. What drives ad effectiveness by segments – and why – is critical to know in order to avoid crucial mistakes that The New Wave of American consumers will not forgive. 

Even seemingly innocuous content can have the opposite effect than intended. For example, facial tracking analysis of Bertolli’s 2016 “Dance” commercial, which featured a biracial couple, revealed a remarkable difference in emotional response between white and multicultural consumers. Other data shows that humor and inspiration are key to positive reaction from white consumers but are not as important for Asian, Hispanic and African American consumers. So yes, it  is common. 

How can advertisers navigate such a complex landscape? How can facial recognition tech help?

Most brands have swung between two extremes – from a dedicated ethnic lens, to a “Total Market” approach, which is intended to appeal to all consumers. The former is expensive and the latter has led to lackluster results of under penetration and market share loss. 

Instead, brand marketers need to become Culturally Fluent in order to cost effectively win in today’s America.  Understanding cultural traits and attributes of different segments is essential to success. When such understanding is combined with a data driven approach to ad resonance, brands can begin to decipher clusters that can react well to similar messages.

We are fortunate that we can now use machine learning and facial tracking to help reveal crucial differences in emotional response  to ads and the drivers behind those responses. Through the utilization of these technological advances, and frameworks such as Cultural Fluency, brands are able to  build a roadmap that helps effectively and authentically speak to these diverse segments. This ends up driving critical marketing outcomes, like purchase intent and brand favorability.

Can you offer an example of backlash a brand has gotten from a misfire?

Certainly the 2017 Dove ad showing a black woman taking off a brown t-shirt to reveal a white woman in a white t-shirt is the most jarring example of brand missteps – of seemingly innocuous content can have the complete opposite effect. 

Related Stories

Verint Expands Its Adobe Partnership for More Personalized Customer Journeys

A partnership between Verint Systems’  The Customer Engagement Company and Adobe is aimed at supporting more personalized customer journeys by combining experience data from the Verint Experience Cloud along with data from the Adobe Experience Platform. Verint customers can magnify their Adobe digital analytics outcomes with Verint’s predictive model to increase customer satisfaction across every channel […]

Turner Mexico And Turner Columbia Turn to Parrot Analytics to Identify Consumer Behavior Trends

Turner Mexico and Turner Colombia have engaged Parrot Analytics to acquire  insights from a continuous study of consumer behavior, after Turner Colombia invited Parrot Analytics to share relevant trends for the Latin American media ecosystem at a recent meeting of the Latin American Media Advertising Council. At the meeting, Alejandro Rojas, Parrot Analytics’ Director of Applied Analytics, […]

02/24/20: Cynopsis Media Tech Update

    A Cynopsis Message From PREMION PREMIONONE SOLUTION. EVERY ADVANTAGE. Leading the Evolution in Local OTT & CTV Advertising PREMION is the leading premiumCTV/OTT advertising solution that enables local and regional advertisers to reach and target their desired audiences at scale. LEARN MORE AT PREMION.COM Monday February 24, 2020 Google has […]

02/24/20: Friends unscripted special confirmed at HBO Max

    Monday February 24, 2020 Tonight’s PremieresGolf: Feherty at 9pNBC: The Voice at 8p Tonight’s Finale Food Network: Girl Scout Cookie Championship at 8pFor streaming TV premieres, go here. IN THE NEWS Comcast is in “advanced talks” to acquire ad-supported streaming service Vudu from Walmart, according to the Wall Street Journal, […]

02/24/20: Monumental’s SVP Leonsis breaks down integrating the company’s divisions

    Monday February 24, 2020 Monumental Sports and Entertainment continues to look to drive innovation around the industry as an early adopter in everything from its own OTT platform (Monumental Sports Network) to esports (investing in Team Liquid) to building an integrated business between Wizards District Gaming and Monumental Basketball. However, one of their […]