When I started working in the Hispanic / multicultural market I had a feeling of déjà vu. The challenge seemed very similar to that of digital marketing when it was getting started in LATAM. A lot of time spent on justifying the opportunity rather than discussing ideas.
I remember when pitching digital business; many clients simply didn’t want to address the issue or acknowledge the medium as a legitimate one. Initially, I assumed this reaction was based on lack of understanding of the opportunity.
So the agency focused on showing the potential of the market (kind of the “in 2050, minorities will represent the majority of the US” approach). We also educated clients on technology. If they understood how things work, they would buy it.
That didn’t work, because as a result, we moved away from addressing the strategic business issues. So we reverted back to educating clients on the impact that digital would have in the way consumers relate with brands, how the power would shift from the marketers to the consumer.
While that approach generated interest and sparked more discussion about digital, I knew something was still missing because clients still didn’t get it.
It wasn’t until after a major presentation to a client that I really understood what was going on. We had just recommended a 3-year digital plan for a leading packaged goods brand. The client seemed happy. But something still felt off. He took me aside and shared his concern “we are not ready for this” –he said with a mix of honesty and shame- “and we also don’t know how to work with a digital agency.”
I realized we’d been spending a lot of time educating the client on the industry, the market, the opportunity, etc. What we needed was to help the client understand a new (digital) agency/ client relationship. Because digital was a completely new territory the client was wary of how to structure/develop the relationship. The entire business was foreign territory and was the real barrier for the client – it had nothing to do with our strategic approach/ideas.
And, this is where I feel the Multicultural agencies come in. It’s about showing clients how to have a working relationship with us (the agency) so they can maximize the opportunity.
Show marketers the role of multicultural agency partner within the entire business structure. Educate on where MCM discipline has to be inserted into the process for maximum effectiveness (optimal results).
Some common sense recommendations:
1. Stop telling clients how big the multicultural market will be in 30 years; focus on how to provide results now.
2. Don’t blame clients because they “don’t understand the market”. That’s why they are paying you for; marketers just need to have the sufficient knowledge to interact with you as a specialist.
3. Help clients rethink their approach to an overall market that is changing because of the impact of multicultural segments, rather than simply targeting Hispanics in a vacuum.
4. Educate client on how and when to engage with you as a multicultural communications partner.