“Total Market” – Still Misunderstood By Marketers

I just spent three days at the Multicultural Retail 360 Summit in Anaheim, California where I was invited to MC for a day. A new and fun experience for me! The conference agenda was solid and the speakers were great! But here’s the thing that caught my attention. Total Market is still a misunderstood concept.

As much as Total Market was discussed during the sessions, companies are still confused and speak to multiple definitions of Total Market, and they question its value, purpose and how it should be executed.

Integration, Total Market’s predecessor is a topic I cover extensively in my book, Marketing To Hispanics – A Strategic Approach To Assessing And Planning Your Initiative.

In my book I explain the premise behind integration as taking a company’s stated growth platforms and acknowledging that the company’s highest potential targets vis-à-vis its growth platforms likely include non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, Asians, African American and other ethnicities and nationalities who fit specific consumption, attitudinal and lifestyle profiles given a brand’s positioning.

Stakeholders would then consider these racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds as they think, plan and implement solutions relevantly across every area in the company that plays a role in the creation and production of the products and services, how these products and services are made available in the marketplace, how consumers are serviced pre, during and post purchase across all channels and how the company communicates its offerings – marketing.

Stakeholders would also work to align and coordinate back-end operations which support the delivery of its products and services, including human resources, suppliers, infrastructure, customer service centers, and reporting.

Total Market is no different. And, it is not a concept that only applies to marketing communications, it is a way of doing business which must be applied more broadly to how a company organizes to operate more relevantly.

Total Market does not mean a brand is all things to all people as I heard some folks say in disapproval. It is not about finding the common denominator marketing insight at the expense of more engaging cultural insights as some marketers have adopted it. It is not about creating one size fits all marketing communications that reaches all target consumers in the same way in order to create efficiencies in agency services and production.

Total Market is about creating alignment within an organization so a company’s go-to-market strategy is optimized for relevancy among its target consumers in context with how a target normally interacts with a category and how it fits in targets’ lives.

This type of alignment requires some organizational and operational optimization (yes, change). It also still requires leveraging diverse target insights to plan and implement dedicated marketing efforts based on what is most engaging to each cultural sub-segment under an umbrella consumer target and strategy.

In my view, the concept of Total Market, is meant to advance companies from a homogenous to a global consumer view within our own borders because this is the reality of the U.S. consumer market today. The U.S. consumer market is far from the way it used to be even just 5 years ago.

If companies want growth in today’s increasingly diverse shopper environment, companies must evolve their thinking and approaches. Today, it’s simply counterproductive and unprofitable to think that anything but a Total Market approach will place companies on an accelerated growth path.

Terry Soto is President and CEO of About Marketing Solutions, Inc., a Burbank, California – based strategy consulting firm specializing in helping her clients to dramatically improve overall business performance by optimizing their strategies to also succeed in today’s diverse U.S. market. Terry is the author of Marketing to Hispanics and Strategic Approach to Planning and Implementing Your Initiative and co-author of Grow With America Best Practices in Ethnic Marketing and Merchandising. She is a contributor to a variety of trade publications and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences. Terry can be reached at terrysoto@aboutmarketingsolutions.com or 818-842-9688.

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It’s not about a “total market” strategy. It’s about a “total market-competent” organization

Terry J. Soto, Author and President & CEO, About Marketing Solutions, Inc.

Much talk has surfaced lately about the whether it makes sense to have a total market strategy. Some contend that the intent of a “total market” strategy—to recognize all potential consumers’ needs, culture and behavioral characteristics within a company’s marketing strategy—is too often misunderstood or not understood at all. This assertion has resulted in approaches that homogenize how organizations communicate with consumers, and it underemphasizes and even ignores cultural nuances that work to powerfully connect consumers and brands.

This is occurring, in part, as a result of agency work consolidation. Marketers are naively taking work from specialty agencies with the required market expertise, and under the guise of a “total market” strategy, are re-assigning the work to general market agencies who are as naïve and even indifferent to the country’s diverse cultural differences as their clients.

I contend that the problem is based on two dynamics: 1) Said marketers lack understanding of consumer differences. Intuitively, I find this problem very hard to believe, as knowing one’s consumer and leveraging the right tools and resources to do so is at the heart of being an effective marketer. 2) Said marketers are looking for ways to make their jobs easier by streamlining processes, vendors and budgets. But one has to ask, at what cost?

Under any circumstances, marketers’ actions are catastrophic. I believe the crux of this problem is marketers, who remain ill-prepared to effectively see and consider today’s consumer market for what it is, and who aren’t sufficiently capable or competent to effectively create a “total market” strategy. By this I mean a strategy which effectively considers all consumers’ cultural insights: Hispanic, Asian, African American and non-Hispanic white consumers.

More than ever in our country’s history, marketers are challenged to “step up” their competence in an environment that 1) is ever more multicultural or multiculturally influenced, 2) is ever more digitally driven, and 3) requires a greater command of big data usage and analysis to optimize spending and maximize ROI.  It’s true. This is a tall order. So why, at a time when marketers actually need to leverage expertise are they choosing to ignore and minimize the very vendor relationships that can support and even accelerate their success?

Our job as marketers is to optimize our companies’ growth platforms and business strategies by planning and implementing complementary marketing strategies. Doing so effectively has always meant leading with competence AND hiring the right expertise for the job.

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. terrysoto@aboutmarketingsolutions.com

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The Growth Handicap: Cultural Competency and Strategic Readiness

Imagine a country where its corporate leaders ignore or simply don’t know how to capitalize on one third of the country’s consumer market. Worse yet, imagine a country where the average age of the other two-thirds of the market is 47 years of age, grew only 10% in the past ten years, and whose spending in key household categories and overall market basket size declines precipitously every year they age.

As the face of the country continues to undergo a major transformation, it’s hard to imagine a single U.S.  Corporation that doesn’t realize big demographic changes are afoot and have been for some time. Many also realize their companies’ survival depends on their ability to capitalize on this younger, ever-changing and ever-growing consumer group. Yet, few companies are really undergoing the required transformation to be and remain relevant and in demand today and into the future.

The problem as I see it is three-fold:

1)  Some leaders simply refuse to see and respond to the changes around them. The ostrich syndrome.

2)  Some leaders are enlightened enough, but are unsure and sometimes powerless about what to do about an organization where its leadership, managers and employees simply don’t relate to, identify with or whose sheer ignorance renders them indifferent about the need to understand the third of the population that is different from them.

3)  Some leaders are stuck on personal, political, and philosophical principles about the desirability of the demographic change happening around them. But the questions must be asked: Are they being compensated to stand on principle and opinion or to grow shareholder value?

To be fair, many corporations do see the need to evolve. Most, though, have very little sense of what to do and how to go about it. Some have grown very strong on the tactics and remain very weak on corporate wide strategic integration. They use advertising and tackle some operational adjustments on a piecemeal and ad hoc basis and that’s as far as they get or as far as they can get in the absence of a business ready organization and a total market strategic approach.

As recent past president of the National Association of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA), my counterpart with the National Black MBA Association (MBMBA) and I witnessed corporations’ growth attempts by focusing on diversity leadership. Many were failing miserably because they tended to fall into three camps:

1) They use the diversity “veil” to partner with diversity associations or contribute to non-profit “watch-dog” organizations as a way to “prove” there is an integrated total market strategy in place where there really is none. Behind the “veil,” these efforts are often about good PR and offsetting corporate affairs risks than they are about building a total market-driven growth strategy.

2)  Companies’ diversity directors partner with professional organizations like NSHMBA and NBMBA for exposure and to offer job opportunities. But, they’re looking for Hispanic and African American professionals with senior experience in industries which historically have had few Hispanics or African Americans in senior positions. As a result, they offer interested candidates starting positions and seldom end up hiring from this talent pool.

3)  Some corporations successfully attract and hire the diverse talent they seek, but without the existing cultural competency and integrated strategies in place to enable capitalizing on the new hires’ diversity, culture, approaches, the differences for which they were hired and resulting potential contributions, they go about training the employee to align their thinking to the existing corporate culture.  A true diversity HR strategy enhances its company’s cultural competency only by enabling differences, the resulting creativity and innovation, and the hired business acumen to impact the total business positively.

The big questions are how does a company overcome these hurdles?  How do they create an awakening to the reality of what’s in the way of total company growth, including personal and professional evolution as big picture leaders and visionaries?

Building company wide competencies and capabilities to capitalize on today’s total consumer market is a challenging undertaking to be sure. But, if business growth is what a company is after, it is an imperative that cannot be ignored. It’s simply impossible to win and continue growing profit and shareholder value when operating with a significant organizational and cultural handicap and misalignment with today’s consumer landscape.

The first step is introducing the questions. Considering what you have just read, is your company business ready and culturally competent to capitalize on the total marketplace? Or, is it still struggling and just going through the motions?

The next step is synthesizing the possibilities. Watch for next week’s post, in which I’ll answer these important opening questions with some steps to align your organization to 21st Century demands.

By Terry J. Soto, Author of “Marketing to Hispanics A Strategic Approach to Assessing and Planning Your Initiative” and President & CEO of About Marketing Solutions, Inc. a strategy consulting company providing transformative business readiness consulting for profitable and enduring total market success.

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