We now reflect on the importance of understanding culture to avoid costly mistakes and maximize the impact of marketing efforts.
According to Quebec sociologist, Guy Rocher, culture is "a linked set of more or less formalized ways of thinking, feeling and acting that, being learned and shared by a plurality of people, serve, in an objective and symbolic way, to form these people into a particular and distinct community." (Guy Rocher, 1969, 88). This doesn’t mean we have to engage in an anthropological study of the target community; however, it is valuable to have some historical benchmarks and a certain sensitivity of the “way of being” of the target community. These elements are attainable by working closely with people in the cultural community.
A good example of understanding culture is when the telecommunications company Digicel offered a set of dominos branded with its corporate logo to its loyal clientele as an in-store promotion. The dominos were in such high demand by customers that staff were compelled to organize a raffle to distribute them. Digicel understood that the game of dominos has a strong resonance in the Caribbean community.
On the flip side, we can recall more controversial examples built on negative stereotypes such as the imagery caused by ill-conceived costume choice made for the group of young black youth pushing a float in the 2017 Quebec National Day parade in Montreal and the backlash from the 2018 H&M's "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle" sweatshirt ad. These situations could have been avoided by collaborating more closely with people from the cultural communities concerned.
In short, multicultural marketing is successful when we develop close communication links with people in the target community. You develop a better understanding of the communities’ culture by investing time and resources in it. In this way, we avoid costly mistakes and increase our chances of getting a better return on marketing investments.
In the next article of The Keys to Multicultural Marketing series, we’ll study the importance of knowing your target clientele well.
Harry Félix is a multicultural marketing strategist, business development consultant and founder of Metro City Marketing.