Communicating with the UK’s Multicultural communities

Communicating with the UK’s Multicultural communities
September 6, 2009 by alsaraf
During this economic downturn, you would think that everyone would be clambering about looking for new opportunities, with clients demanding for more effective, intelligent and cost efficient solutions that deliver results like never before. And yet, the industry continues to respond towards this growing niche by assuming that generic solutions are communicating to all.

Ethnic marketing and media is as important as mainstream marketing and media and in some ways can be more important. It’s got nothing to do with tokenism but has everything to do with customer segmentation and understanding your audience. It’s a point that’s not very well understood by many public relations and marketing professionals. Yet ethnic marketing is growing in importance for many mainstream brand owners.

With the minority ethnic population figures growing to 10%,
(Average household size twice the mainstream average) and in certain cities such as London, Birmingham & Leicester the ethnic communities are a third of the population as a whole.

Research has shown that not only are ethnic minorities hardworking and inspirational, they are also economically powerful. In 2007, LDA research stated that the disposable income for ethnic minorities was valued at £100billion.

Ethnic minorities are brand conscious and loyal and are willing to fork out a lot of money for it. They are 3 times more likely to buy a BMW and 2 times more likely for a Mercedes. They are early adopters and keen purchasers of high-tech products. One in three Black and Asian respondents (33% & 32% respectively) identify Nike as one of the brands they buy most often, compared to only 20% of White respondents. Black women spend 6 times more on hair care products than white women.

Britain’s main’s multicultural communities come from around 120 countries and speak more than 320 languages and dialects in London alone.

People of ethnic background are aspirational and value education and status highly; they seek careers such as Doctor, Pharmacist, IT professionals, Banking and Management.

Most of the people from the ethnic origins are religiously sensitive and culturally conscious. Therefore, they react/ respond differently to generic communication messages. But they do have needs and requirements: to get them interested we need to understand and appreciate their culture and traditions in our work/drives.

Conventional and traditional communication channels are not enough to capture “ Hard to Reach Communities”. Other marketing communication means such as outreach need to be utilized.

Ethnic events such as Mela’s, Carnivals, sport events, Music are able to attract tens of thousands of people ready to spend and be entertained, in fact some of these events attracts hundreds of thousands of minority ethnic audiences.

So what are you doing wrong?

Above all what seems to be lacking is an understanding of the audiences, most marketers would not know much about their multicultural customers, what languages do they speak and what religious background they belong to.

Companies wishing to do business with ethnic minority groups need to review the basic premise of their marketing plans to take account of the growing market pluralism and the multi-ethnic reality of modern Britain.

Multicultural groups respond to marketing / communication messages differently from the mainstream. What works for the mainstream market doesn’t necessarily work for the ethnic consumer, as the triggers and hooks would be quite different? Not to mention the language barriers and difficulties that exists, especially within the early settlers and new immigrants.

For instance, within South Asian communities, the disparity between Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis is huge, despite the fact that they come from the same sub-continent. There are differences in language, religion, food habits, festivals, attire etc. On the other hand, similarities exist in the way they live, where the family is the most important social unit, the concept of large joint family where grandparents, parents, brothers, children all live together as opposed to the westernized nuclear family system.

Within South Asian, Afro-Caribbean and Chinese communities, community networks are very strong, and community leaders as well as religious leaders play an important and influential role in opinion forming and changing behavior.

Due to the language barriers, especially amongst women, older generations and certain new immigrants, these communities tend to rely on their own media / ethnic media channels and community networks for information and entertainment, which is evident from the plethora of ethnic TV stations, radio stations and print publications that have burgeoned over the last 10 years in Britain.

The UK is now truly a multicultural country, and will continue to flourish in the face of diversity. If we don’t recognise that people are different we are not going to get anywhere. Businesses is about engaging people and more so in the current financial downturn. We’ve got too many products and too few customers. When people have a choice and prices are falling, that’s when marketing mavericks look at segmentation and precision marketing. The industry needs to quicken its pace to catch up with the changing face of the new society, or risk getting left behind. Not only do we need to accept it, we need to understand and embrace it.

• Mainstream media under delivers, due to high dependence on ethnic media among the first and second generations.
• Mainstream advertisers need to address ethnic sensitivity and not as tokenism gestures. It is significant to think ethnic, not simply translate.
• Multicultural groups are becoming immune to blanking messages. They desire a personalised message with cultural relevance
• You need culture decoding rather than language translation

Saad Saraf
Mediareach Advertising
http://www.mediareach.co.uk

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