Bicultural Identity and Multicultural Marketing

March 4, 2010

Posted by dannyallen

Knowledge@Wharton posted an article on March 3 about multicultural marketing and bicultural identity. In it they examine how “ethnic-oriented marketing can backfire and even turn multicultural consumers against a product or service.”

The findings from the study reinforce what those of us who work in multicultural marketing have known for some time – if you engage in culture-specific marketing clumsily or with no forethought, you’re more likely to offend your target audience than to engage them. Or in academic speak, “verbal and visual ‘cues’ in advertising that are incongruent with a consumer’s ethnic identity can negatively influence buying decisions.”

Another interesting point from the article was the insight that the United States is not the only country with multicultural marketing challenges. Other countries, particularly European countries, are experiencing an influx of immigrants from other countries and cultures. Examples in the article included

“Asians to the U.K., North Africans to France and Arabs
to Germany.” The data on which the paper was based was in fact taken from a study of Chinese immigrants in the Netherlands, yet their conclusions were very similar to other data and anecdotal evidence seen in the U.S. Hispanic market.

As the U.S. multicultural marketing industry continues to grow and mature, it seems that there is an opportunity to begin to export some of that learning to these other multicultural markets and also learn from them.


  1. One doesn’t have to travel as far as Europe to find bicultural identity issues. Just a few miles north of here you find a whole country who’s been culturally, linguistically, and economically been split for the better part of it’s existence.

    We didn’t see the bulk of it, but there were significant efforts that were undertaken to ensure that all of the Olympic events and communications adhere to Canadian bilingual requirement laws.

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