What is Cross Cultural Marketing? The Future is Diverse

Published on 01 Jun 2021

General Motors and Evoke have made new appointments to their multicultural marketing teams. A growing trend among businesses is to embrace cross cultural marketing as the buying power and size of multicultural populations increase.

General Motors (GM) has promoted Juanita Slappy to lead cross cultural marketing for their Cadillac brand[1]. Cadillac has always been a popular brand among the black community. It is known for its excellence in design and engineering. Juanita Slappy has over 10 years of cross cultural marketing experience. She worked at two of the leading multicultural marketing firms before joining GM in 2017. She started her journey at GM supporting Diversity Brand Communications. She then became a project manager in Program Operations and managed key launch events for GM's Buick, GMC, Chevrolet and Cadillac.    

Global health and wellness media communications agency, Evoke has hired cross-channel storyteller Lisa Llewellyn as a creative executive[2]. Lisa has held creative leadership positions in various multicultural agencies like EMCAY, UniWorld Group, and Prime Access. She is known as a thought leader in the cross cultural marketing space.

The Growing importance of multicultural audience segments 

According to census estimates from 2019,  non-Hispanic whites currently account for 60.1% of the U.S. population. However, in the age group of 18 to 34 years, multicultural populations make up nearly half of the group.  As the population of Asian Americans, Blacks, Hispanics, and other ethnic groups increases, it is expected that by the year 2045, non-Hispanic whites will make up less than 50% of the U.S's population[3].  It's not just the number of people in this group that is increasing, so is their buying power. The purchasing power of Hispanic consumers increased by 212% over the past ten years. In 2020 their purchasing power is expected to be worth USD 1.5 trillion. The combined purchasing power of Asian-Americans, Blacks, and Native Americans is estimated to be USD  2.4 trillion. These numbers are expected to continue increasing. Brands are starting to recognize the importance of the multicultural audience segment. Marketing efforts today need to appeal to an audience made up of people from diverse cultural backgrounds. This has lead to the growing popularity of cross-cultural marketing.

What is cross cultural marketing 
Cross cultural marketing can be described as a strategic and intentional approach to marketing to consumers whose culture is different from that of the marketer. Traditionally marketing in the west was designed for the dominant culture of the country, for example in the US and UK, marketing was designed to appeal to white consumers from the respective countries. However, as populations around the world become more diverse, marketers need to update marketing communication to appeal to people from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds. Brands that do not understand the culture of their audience will make mistakes.  

Examples of cross cultural marketing

Below are some examples of cross cultural marketing done well:

Adobe's 'When I see Black?' campaign

Adobe positions itself as the tool of choice for creators and artists. Through this campaign, it chose to highlight the work of 12 black artists. Appealing to the next generation of black artists and creators as well as creators from different cultural backgrounds. The video ends with the conclusion, "Creativity can’t be painted in a single stroke." A message that is sure to resonate with the black community but is also something people from all backgrounds can relate to. A very effective example of how brands can create messaging that highlights a particular culture but can still appeal to a cross cultural audience.

Coca Cola's - “America Is Beautiful”

Showcased in 2014 before the Superbowl, Coca-Cola's 'America is Beautiful' advertisement became a trending topic in the united state the morning after its release. The video shows different locations in the country, from the plateaus in Utah to the Pacific Ocean and Chinatown in New York City. In the background, a group of voices can be heard singing America the beautiful. The advertisement then features a diverse cast of people who sing the song in different languages. An excellent way of highlighting the changing face of the country.

Rihanna's Fenty Beauty "Beauty for All

Fenty Beauty, the cosmetic brand by music mega start Rihanna, has gained a reputation for its authentic inclusive marketing. In 2017, the brand launched 40 shades of foundation for women with different skin tones. That line has now grown to include 50 shades. The makeup industry has long been criticized for underserving women of color. This campaign is an example of how businesses can not only update their communications to appeal to a multicultural audience but update their product lines to better serve these customers.

Nike's You Can't Stop Us

Nike's campaign made a strong visual impact. The powerful advertisement featured 36 pairs of athletes, one an everyday athlete and one elite performer. The participants were from around the world and from different cultures. The visual does not feature a lot of dialogue but instead uses very clever editing to put its point across. The does not speak to a single audience but instead is truly multicultural and appeals to a broad and diverse audience. 


Common issues with cross cultural marketing


When brands don't take the time to understand the culture that they are hoping to appeal to, they make mistakes. This is particularly evident when a brand launches in a new country of market. Mentioned below are some factors brands should evaluate in order to avoid the common issues with cross cultural marketing:

Understand the culture's values

Every culture has its own heritage and values. Certain things are considered acceptable, certain things are considered rude or inappropriate. Brands should take the time to understand these nuances. If possible hire a local marketing expert who understands the culture well. For example, in the UAE, it would be unacceptable to show someone sitting with their legs crossed and placed on the knee. In Paris, kissing a co-worker on the cheek is an everyday greeting, however, showing the same thing to a US audience would not generate a positive response.

Be careful with words

Words have meanings. The same words can have different meanings in different cultures. For instance, IKEA decided to launch a desk called the FARTFUL. For English-speaking markets, that is not a great name. Similarly, the use of the word mist can be problematic for products that are being targeted at a German-speaking audience. In German the word mist means manure. So Mercedes's Silver Mist drew quite a few chuckles. 

Understand the style of living

In the US there is a culture of excess however, this is not the case in all parts of the world. In some countries, very large portions of food and beverages are considered unhealthy and wasteful. In such markets, fast food brands should highlight the convenience, taste, and health benefits of their food. Focusing on high quantities for low prices would be a mistake. Education, religion, economic systems, business etiquette, laws are other aspects that businesses should evaluate before finalizing their marketing communications. Working with a local expert that has an understanding of customs and norms is a worthwhile investment.

The world is becoming more diverse and it is essential for brands to keep up. Technology has made it easier to disseminate the same marketing message worldwide. By creating cross cultural campaigns that appeal to people of all backgrounds, businesses can get the most mileage from their marketing activities. Subscribe to whitepapers.online for the latest marketing technology updates and news.

Featured image: People photo created by javi_indy - www.freepik.com



1. May 2021, K. Wilson, "General Motors Promotes Juanita Slappy To Lead Multicultural Marketing For Cadillac Brand", Essence, [available online] available from: https://www.essence.com/news/money-career/juanita-slappy-to-lead-multicultural-marketing-for-cadillac-brand/ [accessed June 2021]

2. May 2021, "Evoke deepens multicultural marketing expertise with creative powerhouse, Lisa Llewellyn", [available online] available from: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/evoke-deepens-multicultural-marketing-expertise-with-creative-powerhouse-lisa-llewellyn-301288626.html [accessed June 2021]

3. May 2021, B. Adgate, "Marketers And Programmers Are Seeking Cultural Relevance When Reaching Multicultural And Diverse Groups", Forbes, [available online] available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bradadgate/2021/05/12/marketers-and-programmers-are-seeking-cultural-relevance-when-reaching-multicultural-and-diverse-groups/?sh=4a987b99439c [accessed June 2021]