The original LinkedIn article can be viewed here.

With a renewed focus on more diversity in the media, the call for multiculturalism has never been louder. Consumers don’t just want to see themselves represented in the media they consume, they want their culture to feel recognized and treated with respect, and they want to see other cultures represented too. In the field of marketing, cross-cultural marketing is increasingly being taken seriously, and it’s about time.

CROSS-CULTURAL MARKETING AS A SPECIALTY

While it can be defined several ways, cross-cultural marketing can be said to be the art of taking one culture and connecting it to other cultures by sharing their commonalities, rather than focusing on or erasing their differences. To do this is a delicate balancing act, but it can be done. 

At Elmntl, cross-cultural marketing is in our DNA and we have worked hard to achieve this balance, whether it is bringing the art of Thai drag to NYC Pride or introducing Mexican whisky and mezcal to both Mexican and American audiences. Thankfully, we’re not the only ones focused on cross-cultural, transcultural, or multicultural marketing. However, cross-cultural marketing should not be the sole domain of niche campaigns and agencies, and all brands should take a keen interest in the cross-cultural approach.

MULTICULTURAL MARKET OPPORTUNITIES

Brands and agencies that don’t pay attention to multicultural markets are missing important opportunities. We don’t have to spend much time on this subject as it has already been well-covered and at length by authoritative sources. This alone should provide sufficient motivation to invest in cross-cultural marketing, but even for brands and agencies that focus primarily on the “General Market”, there is an intrinsic value to cross-cultural marketing that should be considered.

ALL GREAT MARKETING IS CROSS-CULTURAL

When you really break it down, all great marketing is cross-cultural. Culture is a shared set of values and experiences. Every brand already has its own specific culture. Thus, all marketing is taking the essence of one culture and connecting that essence to another culture. This is especially true for highly innovative brands, which sit at the intersection of cultures because they break new ground, carving out new spaces that hitherto did not exist. Mature, well-established brands must eventually invest in cross-cultural marketing because without reaching out to other cultures, brands cannot grow beyond their original base and will stagnate.

CROSS-CULTURAL MARKETING ELEVATES STANDARDS

This might be an overly broad definition of culture and cross-cultural marketing, but if you don’t buy into the idea that all great marketing is inherently cross-cultural, there is at least one other reason to invest in cross-cultural marketing. An important lesson from cross-cultural marketing is that in order to market across cultures, you must do the work to understand both cultures (your target audience and the brand), otherwise you will not come across as authentic. Authenticity matters, because today’s consumer is savvy and won’t be fooled by empty gestures. This is true of all marketing, but the demands (and stakes) are higher when it comes to marketing across cultures, and therefore the discipline required by cross-cultural marketing elevates the standards and the quality of the storytelling. 

DO THE WORK (IT’S WORTH IT)

Whether you believe that all great marketing is inherently cross-cultural, or that there is a tremendous benefit to cross-cultural marketing as a discipline that elevates your marketing as a whole, hopefully by now you are convinced that brands and agencies need to invest in learning how to do cross-cultural marketing well. 

To ensure that your brand is being marketed appropriately to another culture, there are no shortcuts (which is one of the reasons why it is not done nearly enough). 

Recruit help from those who are knowledgeable about the culture you want to represent and the culture you want to reach. More often than not, this means people from that culture: experts and stakeholders with their fingers on the pulse of their community who help you understand and promote that culture and remain authentic while doing so. 

Understand that no culture is a monolith: do your research and solicit multiple viewpoints. 

Be humble and be ready to have your preconceptions challenged (and yes, you will have preconceptions, we all do). 

Enjoy the process, because connecting cultures through storytelling is rich, uplifting and inspiring.