Introducing Cross-culturalism

April 29, 2016

Posted by Jose Villa

I’ve discussed how Corporate America is increasingly “moving multicultural out of the silos.” Marketplace dynamics are driving this shift, initially and clumsily, in the form of the total market approach, as brands look to stay relevant and grow in the increasingly minority-majority reality of Millennial and Gen Z populations. There is another factor underpinning the change in multicultural strategies by major marketers: an understanding that culture no longer exists in in silos according to ethnicity.

Why another definition

There are two major reasons why cultural marketers need a new approach and model beyond those in existence today – whether it’s general market, multicultural, or total market – all of which fall short in meaningful ways. The first reason is a result of limitations of the acculturation model, as consumers of different ethnic backgrounds, who are not immigrants, not only acculturate seamlessly, but also embrace multiple cultures, including cultures outside their ethnic background. The Futures Company has articulated this with their “polyculturalism” model describing and measuring the extent to which consumers balance multiple different cultures. The overly simplistic acculturation model, which serves as the foundation for traditional multicultural marketing, is increasingly irrelevant for native-born Hispanics and Asians, inaccurately describing a one-directional and linear move from un-acculturated to acculturated.

The second reason is that current definitions for general market, multicultural, and total market (see my earlier post for detailed definitions) don’t account fully for the changed circumstances and realities of today’s multicultural experience. Existing definitions, while not entirely invalid, are not designed for today’s highly diverse consumer-driven landscape. They are not consumer-centric as an approach so much as serving as classifications for convenience’s sake. Existing definitions remain valid in some but not in every situation when it comes to connecting with multicultural audiences:


Defining Cross-Cultural

Cross-Cultural: the ability for one brand to cross-over from one culture to the next culture

This definition builds upon the idea of crossing over I previously introduced:

Cross-Cultural Marketing – one marketing program that leverages ethnic markets to reach across ethnic and general markets

This new definition is a work in progress and describes a dynamic that has been happening since long before the discussion began. For some reason the discussion has gravitated towards agreement and disagreement about how to define and frame the multicultural conversation for marketing purposes. Cross-culturalism is less a definition but a working model for MEASURING THE AGE-OLD DYNAMIC as opposed to defining it. In that sense, it is forward looking and organic.

This emerging definition of cross-culturalism speaks to how we all relate with brands and culture in the real world. For instance, each of us most likely identifies with a culture but in a given day come across or interact with many cultures. But more importantly, we make consumer choices each day that are influenced by cultures outside of our own. It describes how a non-Hispanic whites end up using Huy Fong Srirachi as a condiment on hot dogs.
None of us lives in a cultural box. We are in motion just like brands are today. This is the natural way in which we experience culture today. A brand can hop from one culture to the next without dilution or losing its way.

Cross-cultural Propensity and Potential

Our hope is to apply this working definition as a means of measuring the cross-cultural dynamic, a dynamic that we call a brand’s cross-cultural prosperity. One of the first ways this model can be applied is to understand a brand’s cross-cultural Propensity and Potential. Propensity measures an existing dynamic – the degree to which a brand could cross-over or not. This approach does not co-opt existing models, but adds to them by exploring HOW AND WHY not what. But our broader and more ambitious goal is to help brands understand how they measure up in the transformative cross-cultural landscape and align themselves for future growth and relevance with multicultural audiences without losing their way as brands. Potential is a diagnostic to understand how to get a brand from point A to a cross-cultural point B.

By introducing cross-culturalism, we are introducing a measurement for brands to understand their meaning and relationship in a changing landscape.

An edited version of this post originally ran on MediaPost Engage:Hispanic on April 28, 2016.

Hispanics and Healthcare

February 25, 2016

Posted by Jose Villa

While a lot has been written about Hispanics and healthcare, particularly in relation to the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, not enough attention has been paid to the opportunity they represent. Hispanics are a vital consumer segment for the large and growing healthcare industry, not just a population to be managed. The expanding population READ MORE…

Seven Hispanic Market Stories to Watch in 2016

January 8, 2016

Posted by Jose Villa

As we begin 2016, we anticipate what the New Year has in store for our industry. I have never been afraid of making predictions, but I think 2016 will be unpredictable. So I’ll instead highlight important stories and trends to track. Latin American Immigration This topic has the most direct impact on Hispanic marketing – READ MORE…

Is Hispanic Marketing Dying or Maturing?

December 4, 2015

Posted by Jose Villa

All industries go through cycles and evolve. Most follow a common trajectory that begins with rapid growth, then slows down, matures and ultimately faces creative destruction (which J. Schumpeter coined the “ultimate fact of capitalism.”) I’ve been thinking about this in relation to the state of the Hispanic marketing industry, as the industry trade association READ MORE…

Replacing the Acculturation Model

October 1, 2015

Posted by Jose Villa

Hispanic marketing started out in the 1960s as an industry built around language – Spanish language media and advertising to reach recent immigrants to the U.S. During the late 1980s the concept of culture began to replace language as a key strategic foundation of most Hispanic and multicultural marketing. What is culture? According to Wikipedia, READ MORE…