Are You Still Arguing Over Muticultural ROI? Get Over It.

By  Terry Soto, Author of Marketing to Hispanics A Strategic Approach to Assessing and Planning Your Initiative and President and CEO, About Marketing Solutions, Inc.

When it comes to multicultural marketing, many organizations still struggle to answer the question about whether multicultural marketing ROI is justifiable. But, think about it. Isn’t that like asking whether it makes sense to market to only some consumers who buy our products and services because we can’t figure out the value of marketing to all current or potential buyers? Does it really make sense to decide that marketing to a segment of our consumers is a discretionary investment?

If that made any sense at all, one could easily question marketing investment in general. Nearly everybody who works in marketing knows the John Wanamaker quote, “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” The truth is that tracking marketing spend against ROI has always been like trying to nail air to a wall, and yet we continue to invest millions. So why does multicultural marketing ROI remain such a contentious issue?

I believe the problem stems out of the fact that U.S. marketers haven’t yet evolved from being Middle America marketers to Multicultural America marketers. We are still thinking and behaving as though our country remains demographically unchanged.

We read and hear about the demographic change and its impact, yet we continue to rationalize planning and spending primarily against an outdated marketplace definition. In his white paper after the 2010 census results were released, Peter Franchese, founder of American Demographics magazine said, “marketers need to realize the U.S. has changed forever adding that the concept of the Average American no longer exist and trying to market to them is an irrelevant undertaking.” Did anybody else but me read this?

And if we know this, why aren’t we stepping up our organizational game to learn about and respond to this new marketplace reality? Why do we continue to question the sense in understanding and investing in the marketplace as it currently exists? Why aren’t we taking a comprehensive approach to raising our organizations’ competency and capabilities so we can actually see what truly makes sense for our businesses? Why don’t we see the fool heartedness of remaining mired in debates about ROI justification for multicultural segments simply because we don’t understand these segments in relation to our business goals?

How can our organizations claim to be great global marketers when many of our organizations haven’t a clue about the impact this demographic change is having and will continue to have on their business? How can we say we’re successful multicultural marketers when most within our organizations refuse to acknowledge the impact of these segments on the organization’s business? Why do we continue to relegate responsibility to managers who are hired to “deal” with multicultural segments which the rest of the company doesn’t understand or with which few want to deal.

Some of us would shutter at the honest answers to these questions as many are founded on personal, philosophical, and political ideology, but let’s remember that we’re in this to grow our businesses based on business savvy not personal views or biases.

We are at a pivotal point in our country’s demographic history where multicultural market expertise including a much multiculturally impacted non-Hispanic white consumer is a requirement for every organization’s growth strategy.

Smart organizations simply can’t afford to remain indifferent to America’s demographics or to continue make only tactical efforts to effect sizable growth for their organizations. Status quo multicultural ROI rhetoric is not only irrelevant in today’s America, but it is an increasingly dangerous liability corporate America can no longer afford to carry.

Terry Soto is President and CEO of About Marketing Solutions, Inc., a Burbank, California – based strategy consulting firm specializing in transformative business readiness and strategy consulting for profitable and enduring total market success. She helps her clients dramatically improve overall business performance by optimizing their strategies to succeed in the Hispanic market.