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Seattle Multicultural Marketing Summit 2015 Part 2: Interview with Diego Osuna

Posted by Vanessa Vachet | 09.25.15


Seattle's Multicultural Marketing Summit: Part 2!

Seattle’s Multicultural Marketing Summit: Part 2!


In Part 1 of this series, we profiled The Multicultural Marketing Summit, which took place in Seattle, Washington earlier this year. QEQ’s Alisa Choi Darcy was there to join the debate. The topic for this year’s Summit?  “CREATING THE NEW MULTICULTURAL MARKETING PARADIGM”. To learn more about what was discussed, read Part 1 of our Series.


Among the list of featured speakers were marketing innovators, leading research firms, as well as VP’s from major U.S. brands such as Starbucks and Walmart. One of those innovators, and the man who organised the Summit itself, Diego Osuna, Founder & Chief Sojourner at globalsojourn, speaks to the mixed reactions of his fellow marketers.


Diego Osuna is Founder & Chief Sojourner at globalsojourn

Diego Osuna is Founder & Chief Sojourner at globalsojourn


“[The conference] was generally well-received,” he told QEQ. “It was exciting to so many marketers, but also threatening to some. Exciting,” he explains, “because some of the smaller marketing agencies are now able to develop and contribute to the broader marketing strategies that influence the way multicultural marketing progresses. They get in on the higher levels of developing large overall concepts and strategy. But, it’s also threatening to some, because this could mean that some marketers and businesses will have to change the way they do things. They may have to alter the way they work in order to be successful.”


What about multicultural marketing in the USA? What are the major immerging markets and how do they differ from Canadian ones?


“We’re seeing mainly Hispanic consumers,” says Diego. “And conveniently, they’re typically located and geographically concentrated in 5 states. But, Asian consumers are also on the rise. They’re sophisticated and have high incomes, so they’re very attractive to many businesses in the USA. The LGBT segment is also gaining ground as well. So is marketing for consumers with disabilities. They’re what’s on the leading edge of marketing today.”


Where do you think we are in terms of multicultural marketing? Are marketers finally ‘getting it right’?  


“In my opinion, this kind of marketing is still in its infancy,” explains Diego. “That was really emphasised by one of the Summit’s presenters, César Melgoza (Founder and CEO of Geoscape), who reported that half of the major American companies have no plan in place for ethnic consumers.”


What’s holding these companies back in your opinion?


The problem that marketers often confront is that, “Companies haven’t really learned how to fund and build a total market approach,” says Diego. The ‘total market’ concept begins with a complete understanding of a diverse consumer base, inclusive of multicultural consumer nuances, without relying on a one-size-fits-all approach. However, in Diego’s opinion, “though the [‘total market’] concept is better understood today than it was just a decade ago, it can still be difficult to persuade companies to dedicate funds to research.” Many businesses are still reluctant and do not want to commit fully to understanding how culture influences the needs of their diverse, multicultural consumer base.


How can marketers better engage ethnic consumers?


“Every marketer will tell you that the customer likes to feel invited,” Diego says. “It’s a universal human truth: if you make it easy for me to use a product or service, I’ll probably use it.” His suggestion to marketers? “Don’t get caught up with labels (ie. total market, cross-cultural or multicultural marketing). Just try things. Experiment. And,” he stresses, “be patient. Companies that are known for multicultural marketing today are usually the ones who started investing in it 10 years ago.”


Patience is sometimes the hardest lesson to preach. Companies often want to see a return on their investment right away. “Companies get caught up in the short term,” explains Diego. “They want a base ROI in a short amount of time, but it takes a more long-term commitment to see those big results. “


In the future, will there even be a need for multicultural marketing? Or will niche markets eventually become the ‘mainstream’?


In Diego’s opinion, “There will always be a need to introduce a new product to a new demographic or a new audience. And as our economies and societies intertwine, and merge even more, there will always be a need for a 2-pronged approach: 1) to have a broader message that will include having content in other languages but also, 2) to tailor and shape those messages to different languages and ethnicities.” Diego stresses that smaller multicultural agencies would not disappear, but instead, could be poised to have the greatest influence on the evolution of marketing. “A certain amount of customising will always be needed,” he explains, “and smaller agencies that focus specifically on multicultural marketing are poised to have the biggest influence because they have the expertise and the in-depth knowledge that comes from years of interaction with cultural communities.”


Finally, if a CEO were to come to you and ask why they should invest time and money into multicultural marketing, what would you say?


In Diego’s eyes, there’s only one reply. “Ask yourselves what your competitors are doing,” Diego responds. “Look at the [demographics] they’re already reaching. The question is: Will you be missing out?”               


A QEQ Perspective – Alisa Choi Darcy:


“Marketers in the U.S. have much more to gain by reaching out to ethnic markets. African-American, Asian American and Hispanic consumers account for more than 120 million people combined – which is over 3 times the total population of Canada — with an estimated $3.4 trillion buying power in 2014. Over the years, many marketers in Canada have looked towards pioneers in the U.S. for marketing best practices, particularly in the field of multicultural marketing. It is therefore interesting for me to learn that some U.S. marketers are still in denial about the impact of cultural markets. Some do not even recognise the need to develop culturally inclusive business and marketing strategies that incorporate deeper cultural insights.” 


Seattle Image: Courtesy of Corbis RF Images