“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.


It’s Time to Get Serious – Looking Ahead to 2013 and Beyond

By Terry Soto, Author of Marketing to Hispanics A Strategic Approach to Assessing and Planning Your Initiative

As 2012 comes to a close, it’s gratifying to see the dynamic and momentum among US companies when it comes to leveraging multicultural markets for growth.

Those who’ve followed my articles, presentations and book, Marketing to Hispanics a Strategic Approach to Planning and Assessing Your Initiative, which published in 2006, know that I speak two words when it comes to targeting Hispanics – INTEGRATED and HOLISTIC. So you can imagine how encouraging it is to see many companies now use this terminology to describe the multicultural initiatives they are trying to achieve within their organizations.

Yet, there is so much more work to be done. Speaking the words and knowing what is meant by them or by what is meant by taking a TOTAL MARKET approach, won’t get us to total market success. Reading all the books, articles and attending all the conferences and round tables won’t do it either. But they sure feel like they’re great tools to bring back to the company, don’t they? And for a split moment, it sure feels like when “they” read THIS article, or the report or the presentation it will make “them” think twice about dismissing the opportunity – it will be THE catalyst that will make believers out of them and your jobs more gratifying. But it seldom really happens, does it? In fact, just this week, I spoke to a VP of Multicultural at a large CPG company, who’d forwarded the article with the headline: 100% of Wal-Mart’s growth will come from Multicultural markets, only to hear back that the Wal-Mart must have been misquoted. Can you imagine the frustration?

The truth is unless our C-Suites take leadership in establishing Multicultural markets as a business imperative, you and those who come after will continue to re-live this vicious cycle.

Over time, I’ve given you best practices, steps to follow, the 4-Cs and many tools and advice to help elevate our industry’s thinking about multicultural marketing, but as we look forward to 2013 and beyond, we need to get serious. We need to step up our game!

Whether you’re a CMO, a VP of Marketing, a VP of Multicultural or Multicultural director or manager, I CHALLENGE YOU to insist your C-Suites stop giving Multicultural markets lip service – to stop patting us on the head and giving us bogus responsibilities for Multicultural market growth when the C-Suite and the rest of the organization has yet to acknowledge and adopt a total market strategic approach that leverages multicultural markets as the true business growth opportunity it represents.

You must insist that at least the following eight steps I normally work on with my client organizations take place. These are the only ways to signal a serious and profitable organizational approach to multicultural marketing. Anything less is an exercise in futility.

  1. The C-Suite must communicate the need to leverage ALL consumer targets as an imperative critical to improving the company’s growth performance.
  2. The C- Suite must guide the organization to adopt a broader view of the company’s consumer target and demand a relevant and relatable strategy for all target consumers.
  3. The C-Suite must have the same ROI expectations in terms of timing and investment across all target segments since it is a total market approach after all.
  4. The C-Suite must ensure all areas of the organization take responsibility for delivering value to all the company’s target customers and tie rewards to performance. Silos must disappear and external partners must adopt a total market approach.
  5. The C-Suite must ensure the necessary total market competency is developed internally so ignorance and fear don’t become reasons to avoid change.
  6. The C-Suite must lead key stakeholders across the organization to develop processes, operations and action plans and marketing approaches that deliver viable and relevant solutions to the company’s total target market.
  7. The C-Suite must drive the implementation of integrated solutions and ensure multicultural metrics enable a view of the multicultural contribution to total market goals and priorities.
  8. The C-Suite must adopt a sustainable and forward looking vision that ensures the company is relevant and which maximizes its growth potential in this “New” consumer marketplace for the long term.

In 2013, we need to be willing to push our C-Suites to evolve personally and professionally as big picture business growth leaders and visionaries or we risk staying on this “hamster wheel” for a very long time to come.

I wish you much courage and conviction in 2013.


Terry Soto is President and CEO of About Marketing Solutions, Inc., a Burbank, California – based strategy consulting firm specializing in helping her clients dramatically improve overall business performance by optimizing their strategies to succeed in the Hispanic market. terrysoto@aboutmarketingsolutions.com


When Hispanic Marketing Is Not Enough

I recently presented one of the general sessions at the Hispanic Retail 360 Conference held at the Hilton Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California. My presentation was titled the 4Cs Solution: Commitment, Competence, Capabilities and Compensation. I listened to two and a half days of interesting market insight presentations focused on the 50 million Hispanic market size, engagement, connection and relevant Hispanic market reach.

On the last day, I looked out at the audience and asked, has Hispanic marketing really advanced in the past 20 years? Or, does it feel like we’re in a time warp? And more importantly, are companies really seeing the growth that matters to their leadership?

Sure, there are many more internal experts inside the walls of corporate America. They all have the deep consumer insights. And, they certainly have the reach vehicles and a myriad of marketing properties from which to choose. And yet, Hispanic marketing spend remains an “expendable” expense representing only 1.2% of the $325 billion spent on advertising.

Could it be because Hispanic marketing is still managed as an afterthought? Could it be because corporate America makes minimal efforts to organize internally to define “how” to align operations to effect Hispanics’ contribution across their stated growth platforms? Could it be because Hispanic marketing is still driven by an industry which has an almost exclusive external marketing focus?

We talk endlessly about the Hispanic market’s size, its language preferences, the deep and multi-segmented insights, the culture, and the “right media spend,” whatever that means. And, we continue to live in a Hispanic marketing world of soccer sponsorships, celebrities, concerts and festivals, media properties, in-language and in-culture creative and a host of other above- and below-the-line investments which seldom tie back to corporate growth platforms.

Let’s face it; internally and externally, we aren’t doing a good job of thinking and talking business first and marketing second. We complain about not being invited to sit at the “adult strategy table” to participate in the big conversations, but have yet to elevate “our talk” to the required levels – the levels that track with industry threats and big picture direction setting. And we aren’t having the conversations about using our deep market insights to help organizations become business ready to leverage the company’s assets to their fullest potential.

As a result, we perpetuate a view of the Hispanic market as a separate endeavor and as the end in and of itself. Two problems arise from this approach – the first is the inability to attribute any portion of top and bottom line strategic growth to the Hispanic market. And second, we can’t justify the value of our existing efforts because they are irrelevant to the focal points companies have set for growth.

We know too well the importance of being relevant, of speaking your audience’s language and of connecting with our consumer. However, we ignore these principles when it comes to the boardroom and the C-Suite where these principles should matter most to us. We ignore the premise that getting into any human being’s head means getting into their world in a credible and meaningful way.

If we are to advance Hispanic market strategy as an investment worthy growth driver, we need to grow competent about the issues and solutions being addressed at the top.  What we hear must become our compass. The insights we speak to must be in this context. The market’s relevance and value as an investment will come from our ability to position the Hispanic market as a catalyst to relevantly operationalizing corporate America’s growth platforms.

We must broaden our thinking. If we expect corporate America to “walk the talk,” we must be prepared to talk their talk – and to help them take more productive actions.

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 and strategy consulting for profitable and enduring total market performance. Contact Terry at 818-842-9688 or by email at terrysoto@aboutmarketingsolutions.com.


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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