Politicians can’t give a straight answer, but we can still learn a thing or two.  

By Jennifer Mathis, SVP Media Director

Politicians understand the importance of connecting with a diverse audience. They realize that they cannot win an election without a variety of voters—African Americans, Asian, and Latinx voters. And while they realize that they need to connect broadly, it doesn’t always mean they have the right approach. The same is true in multicultural marketing efforts. So, in this politics-heavy year, I’ve been observing how campaigns approach multicultural outreach to see what we can apply to our brand marketing efforts.

Media support needs to represent the market. 

February is the host of the early Democratic primary caucuses in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. This year, it’s been a point of contention that these four states don’t accurately represent the diversity of the nation’s population with Iowa and New Hampshire being majority white. Some argue that Nevada, where 29% of the population is Latinx, and South Carolina, which is 27% African American, help round out the numbers but the combined population of the four states is still whiter, older and less urban than the national population. If we’re looking for a representative sample for a national election, the question many have asked is, shouldn’t we have four states that better represent the nation’s demographics?

The same can be asked when considering media support.

Brands also have a business need to reach different audiences. It’s important to work with clients to determine from where and from whom they expect business growth and ask how that group is included in the media planning and buying process. Are you in the right channels based on the volume potential? Is there specific context that makes sense for the brand? Does the messaging make sense for the target?

Diving deep into the source of volume, then the media habits, areas of influence and receptivity, are key to determining if your media support is representative of the business need to make an impact.

A targeted, personalized approach is more impactful.

In 2016, candidate Trump received only 8% of the vote from African American voters. In 2020, how is he trying to win over more of these voters? He’s turning to a very pointed messaging approach in key media channels at key moments.

From his 30-second Super Bowl ad targeting African American voters through the topic of criminal justice reform; to moments in the nationally televised State of the Union address where he repeatedly singled out African American audience members for praise; to South Carolina where, for a more conservative voter, he’s tapped into social and cultural issues that will resonate, he adjusts his messaging based on not only the demographic, but the nuances based on where the media is placed[1].

Brands can take this same approach. Media plays a key role in reaching the right person at a time they are most receptive. However, if the messaging is not relevant, you’ve wasted your client’s dollars. It’s critical that media and creative are working hand in hand when it comes to being an effective multicultural marketer. Is the creative relevant to the full audience? Do we need nuanced versions in specific channels or context? Should this be a national campaign? Or would a localized approach be more effective? How can we leverage data for a personalized approach to hit on specific needs of our consumers?

Words are cheap.

Everyone loves a great photo op, whether it’s Joe Biden serving breakfast at a soul food restaurant or Amy Klobuchar ordering Boba tea, but does this convince voters these politicians now understand their needs and will fairly represent them with policy? Interestingly enough, the value of these photo ops differs depending on if the voter is second-generation or an immigrant as they have different needs from the political conversation[2]. Either way, it’s not about the food our nominees eat. What is more valuable is the time they spend getting to know these communities.

Marketing can learn a lot from this.

Just running a TV spot with diverse talent isn’t enough. Think beyond just a media placement where the conversation is one way. Where can you have two-way conversations with your audience? How are you creating experiences that invite consumers to engage with your brand? How can your brand support the community? These are some ways to build deeper long-term relationships.

Successful politicians understand the importance and nuances within multicultural marketing. They adjust their tactics; they consider local versus national conversations and they try to show up in an authentic manner. To be a successful marketer, we need to do the same. Some key things to keep in mind:

  • Media plans need to reach an accurate representation of the brand’s source of volume.
  • Personalization can be a valuable tool.
  • Go beyond TRPs and impressions; build a relationship.

Most important of all, get to really know your audience. Spend time understanding who they are, where they are, and how your brand fits into their life. Seek to build connection, not just sales.



[1] “Inside Donald Trump’s aggressive outreach to black voters,” New York Post, by Jon Levine, Feb 2020
[2] “Candidates love the ethnic food photo op, but there are better ways to reach nonwhite voters,” Los Angeles Times, by Frank Shyong, February 2020

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