Quote EndQuote Cross-Cultural Strategy

McDonald’s Mainstream Marketing Decisions Guided by Multicultural Insights

Posted by Alisa | 11.26.13


Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending the annual ANA Multicultural Marketing and DiversityI'm lovin' it Conference In Los Angeles. Traditionally held in Miami, this year’s conference hosted over 800 delegates from around the U.S., an increase of approx. 25%. This increase in interest hopefully signifies a sign of the times — marketers can no longer ignore the trillions of dollars of annual spend that visible minority consumers represent.

The speakers were all high-powered Vice Presidents and key influencers from Fortune 500 organizations — including WalMart, Target, Pepsi, Coke. As well, organizations that are normally thought of as “niche” marketers, such as IMAN Cosmetics, enlightened us. As much as mainstream organizations wanted to sell to multicultural consumers, niche companies saw their cross-cultural marketing efforts embracing mainstream markets.

Why attend a multicultural marketing conference in the U.S., you ask? I’ve attended several multicultural marketing conferences in Canada over the past five years, in Toronto, Vancouver and even Calgary, however, the stakes are higher in the states. As well, there are many more head offices with bigger budgets to test various multicultural marketing strategies. We in the Canadian marketing industry can benefit from both their successes and failures, all making good case studies for Multicultural Marketing 101 text books.

The biggest difference between multicultural marketing in the U.S. and Canada is the cultural mix: our South Asian market, who are comfortable consuming media in English, can be compared to their African Americans. As well, our Chinese consumers have similar media consumption behaviours as their Hispanic target, who tend to prefer media in their mother tongue.

There were many learnings and business insights that I garnered from the conference, which I will address in future blogs, however, probably the best wake-up call and call-to-action was from Marlena Peleo-Lazar, Chief Creative Officer from McDonald’s Corporation, the opening presenter at the conference.

Marlena described how many major general market business and marketing decisions at McDonald’s are now guided by multicultural insights. Even though their first global campaign “I’m lovin’ it” is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and the little jingle has 100% recognition around the world, she believes that “None of us is as good as all of us”. She has successfully lead a multi-agency team, which includes their general market agency and their individual segment agencies, to work cooperatively to create campaigns that not only starts with a non-stereo-typed cultural insight, but also presents customers with one unified brand message, no matter the culture of the target.

An example case study is McCafe. They know that Asians, who have astute palates, find it important to retain their heritage, while wanting to embrace the offerings of their new country. The Hispanic market also have astute palates and they don’t like, they LOVE coffee. For African Americans, coffee is “sweet liquid love” and is an indulgence for them. All of these cultural insights are incorporated into their mainstream commercials to promote McCafe.

A progressive strategist, Marlena noted that multicultural marketing can no longer simply mean advertising. For McDonald’s, it includes being involved in the community — through sponsorships, festive window posters during Chinese New Year, providing scholarships to better the community they serve.

For companies in the journey, Marlena’s advice: “First learn as much as possible. Be informed. And be students. Be in the moment. Follow a process so that it’s not just once in a while. It’s not just about the money, it’s about doing the right thing to connect with the communities.”