As marketing tactics become more sophisticated and competition for audience attention becomes more and more fierce, it’s more critical than ever to demonstrate an understanding of what your audience is looking for. This goes beyond demonstrating the value of your product — you also need to show an in-depth understanding of multicultural marketing and of your audience’s identities and what they value.

Multicultural marketing, also known as inclusive marketing, is the practice of tailoring your marketing specifically to local communities, cultural practices and unique identities.

Why Does Multicultural Marketing Matter?

Audiences are aware of the personalization capabilities of modern marketing technology and expect brands to use it:

The expectation for personalized marketing goes beyond variable fields in emails — audiences expect a genuine understanding of their needs and identity.

Even more important to keep in mind is that ideas of personal identity and social awareness are becoming more and more critical to the generations with the most buying power at the moment: Millennials and Gen Z. These audiences are extremely active in social issues, and 81% of millennials expect businesses to make a public commitment to charitable causes and social responsibility.

Jon Colclough, director of brand partnerships and strategy at Mass Appeal, argues that multicultural marketing goes beyond a strategic tactic, and is in fact a responsibility for marketers to consider inclusivity and multicultural perspectives in their brand narratives. In a piece for Google<, he states: “How can we expect an industry to embrace a diverse and inclusive workforce when we still look at the people and communities we engage with as monolithic entities? As ‘general’ and as ‘other’? As storytellers of the human experience, we have a duty to our clients and the public.”

AT&T: Okay Isn’t Good Enough

This campaign is a great example of taking a single marketing message and tailoring it to various multicultural audiences across the US. This series of TV spots shows customers interacting with a variety of businesses who tout their services as “Just Okay,” illustrating that subpar service is a red flag in every industry, and this should be the case with your cell phone carrier as well.

The multicultural application of this campaign is simple but effective. In one spot, a Latino gay couple confronts a “just okay” babysitter, and in another, two businesses deal with a sub-par translator during a critical meeting. The most notable is one spot that features a Latina woman visiting a hairstylist to get ready for her double quinceanera, which was directly produced in both English and Spanish (rather than dubbed) using the same script and the same Latinx actors. The campaign also uses African-American LGBT comedienne Lena Waithe as narrator, a subtle but powerful nod toward inclusivity.

This series of spots proves that multicultural marketing doesn’t have to be forced or a grand demonstration of your brand’s commitment to inclusivity, and can be as simple as taking a single campaign idea and tailoring it to various individual backgrounds.

Fenty Beauty: Beauty for All 

This cosmetics brand goes beyond a single campaign or product line: inclusivity is baked into the brand ethos. As a mixed-race woman of Afro-Barbadian, Afro-Guyanese and Irish descent who has experienced diverse cultures and unique experience as an immigrant, founder Rihanna insisted from inception that Fenty was designed to offer “Beauty for All.”

This ethos paid off, as Fenty’s brand launch was the largest beauty launch in Youtube history and had over $100 million in sales in just a few weeks. The brand’s messaging and visual identity focuses on reinforcing the “beauty for all” idea, featuring models of every imaginable skin tone and ethnic background. The brand launched with an unprecedented 40 foundation shades and has since expanded to 50, focused primarily in underrepresented and “difficult to match” shades. This includes extremely dark tones and olive undertones, which are the skin tones of women of color who are traditionally underrepresented in the beauty industry.

Sandy Saputo, chief marketing officer at Fenty’s incubator Kendo brands, writes about the ethos and theory behind the launch, emphasizing the importance of taking a “show, don’t tell” approach to multicultural marketing and letting the values inform the brand presentation. She recalls the strategy behind the launch: “Inclusion was more than the number of shades; it was the well-crafted nuance of each shade in the range that also served as a proof point. This allowed so many women to find themselves in the brand and feel included…In fact, we never once used the word “inclusive” in our messaging. “Inclusive” is how we were defined by the press and consumers. The marketing, social, and creative team prioritizes and engages in this conversation on a daily basis with the Fenty Beauty community.”

LinkedIn: Serving Professionals Worldwide

LinkedIn is unique in that it’s a social network, but unlike Facebook and Twitter it is completely focused on careers, businesses and networking. The LinkedIn Learning product is a series of online courses for business owners, creatives, marketers and professionals, which features a wide variety of topics that can be personalized to each user based on their career history and professional interests. When thinking about personal and professional growth, multicultural marketing becomes particularly important.

LinkedIn Learning features a widely representative group of instructors and professionals in each course, ensuring that users can see themselves on the growth trajectory and using the skills that each course offers. When you consider that LinkedIn has over 562 million members in 200 countries, it’s crucial to ensure that these members can find a representation of their cultural background when looking to expand their professional horizons.

Senior product marketing manager Julia Cabral emphasizes the importance of making LinkedIn an inclusive environment: “Our job as consumer product marketing is really to be the advocate of our entire member base. That member base is incredibly diverse, which we’ve showcased in our free trainings such as the Growing Your Small Business With LinkedIn course. Diversity is core to what I do every day.”

Wrap-up: Multicultural Marketing

Multicultural inclusivity in marketing might seem complex, but at its core, it’s simply a deeper take on refining your audience personas to ensure you’re truly offering genuine value to individual users. Keep in mind that consumers aren’t defined by just one characteristic, such as racial identity, cultural background, sexual orientation, age, education or location, but rather they are impacted by all of these unique factors to form their individual identity and inform their pain points and buying habits.

Naseem Shah