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Tapping into the lucrative growth seam that is modern multicultural Australia requires a fresh approach to marketing strategy and execution. Here, we explore how 10 Aussie brands have worked to build cultural inclusivity into the heart of their campaigns and creative.

More than half of Australians today are of first or second-generation cultural backgrounds, and over one-quarter speak languages other than English at home. Such cultural diversity makes multicultural marketing a lucrative growth strategy for brands right now.

Yet engaging, rather than just reaching, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Australian consumers requires more than a translation of one tagline or one colour in your creative. It requires a more thoughtful approach all-round to brand, marketing, audience targeting, communications, product offers and innovation, and more.

Here, we explore an array of campaigns across categories that illustrate how brands are putting the effort in to proactively target multicultural Australians in a more inclusive way.

1. Google Real Tone technology and campaign seeks to end biased skin tone representation

Skin tone bias in artificial intelligence and cameras has been well documented. Too often, people with darker complexions are rendered unnaturally, therefore lacking authentic representation in imagery.

In response, Google devised Real Tone with the goal of bringing accuracy to cameras and the images they produce. At its core, Real Tone is a technology and product breakthrough, and Google worked in partnership with image experts tuning computational photography algorithms to better reflect the nuances of diverse skin tones. Among these was Dr Ellis Monk, a Harvard professor and sociologist who for more than a decade has studied the way skin tone impacts people’s lives. The culmination of Dr. Monk’s research is the Monk Skin Tone (MST) Scale, a 10-shade scale now incorporated into various Google products.

Worked commenced in 2020 on improvements to the way skin tones were represented and a new colour scale was introduced, starting with Pixel 7 smartphones. The program expanded in 2021 to include further enhancements across exposure, colour, tone-mapping, face detection, face retouching in multiple apps and camera modes.

Efforts sit under the broader Google Image Equity Initiative, which also incorporated a widespread campaign and initiative supporting cultural inclusivity. This saw Google work closely with Australian publishers, such as Pedestrian, Nine and Refinery29, to update image libraries to make sure they reflect diverse, modern Australia.

“It was great to take the opportunity not just to do a campaign driving education about Real Tone, but also to fundamentally address representation in those publisher image libraries,” Google Australia Director of Marketing, Aisling Finch, said.

2. SBS Audio rebrands with multi-lingual campaign

As part of its refresh and rebranding efforts, SBS Audio has kicked off a vibrant multilingual marketing campaign to drive Australian audiences to its unified cross-platform offering featuring podcasts, radio, music and more.

The multi-lingual ad campaign signalling the new-look SBS Audio debuted in June 2023 and is designed to complement improved discoverability of multi-lingual audio content across the digital platform. SBS Audio is features 262 hours of original content published weekly and the platform gets more than 6 million streams and podcast downloads every month.

The campaign targeted multicultural audiences as well as those seeking diverse perspectives and storytelling through a contemporary Australian lens. Creative led with a promise to ‘match your wavelength’, urging audiences to discover SBS’s podcasts, music and trusted news in more than 60 languages.

The inaugural campaign ran across paid and owned media through June, with ads featuring diverse faces of contemporary Australia and creative appearing in Arabic, English, Korean, Mandarin, Punjabi, Spanish and Vietnamese. These choices directly reflected personalisation options available in the app and on the website.

“We aim to deeply engage and grow audiences on the platforms where they’re already at with our promise to ‘match their wavelength’ in terms of both content and channel choices,” said SBS director of marketing, Jane Palfreyman.

3. Australian Human Rights Commission uses education to combat elder abuse

Another multicultural campaign of note launched in 2023 alongside World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is from the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The education-oriented campaign, ‘Have You Thought About Later Life?’, was about urging older Australians from a range of culturally diverse backgrounds to safeguard themselves against elder abuse by organising their wills, enduring powers of attorney and other important legal documents. The campaign formed part of the Commission’s growing suite of educational resources for preventing elder abuse.

According to the National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study, one in six older Australians have experienced elder abuse, the term used to describe harm done by someone they know and trust. However, only one third of victims seek help. While legal documents can help, many Australians find it difficult to think or talk about later life. For older Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, additional barriers to later life planning include lack of awareness about what is possible as well as confusion due to different approaches in their home countries.

Under the Commission’s campaign, relevant educational resources were created in English, Mandarin, Arabic, Greek, Vietnamese and Italian. The campaign ran across community specific media and promoted by influencers within each community.

“Elder abuse has serious and often devastating effects on the health, wellbeing, dignity and autonomy of older Australians. However, it manifests and regardless of the reasons, elder abuse has no place in our community,” Age Discrimination Commissioner, the Hon Dr Kay Patterson AO, said. “Future planning empowers older people to have choice and control over their senior years and reduce the risk of elder abuse. By formalising their wishes in documents such as wills, enduring powers of attorney and advance care directives, older Australians can have peace of mind about the future and help their loved ones understand their wishes and how best to support them.

“Through this campaign, we’re encouraging older people to speak to someone they trust or seek professional advice to plan ahead and get on with enjoying their lives by knowing their future is more secure.”

4. Vegemite’s Harmony Week campaign celebrates cultural diversity through inclusive language and content

In conjunction with Harmony Week in 2021, Vegemite and its agency partner, Thinkerbell, sought to recognise the diversity of cultures in modern Australia through the ‘Tastes of Australia’ campaign.

A key element was an outdoor billboard campaign featuring Vegemite’s classic ‘Tastes Like Australia’ headline written in the top 10 most spoken languages in Australia today: Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Italian, Greek, Tagalog, Hindi, Spanish and English. The creative also featured Vegemite’s iconic colour palette and logo.

Vegemite shared a series of recipes inspired by each of these top 10 languages, available on the Vegemite website and via social media channels. In addition, Australians were invited to share their favourite dishes of cuisine from around the globe using Vegemite by posting on Instagram with the hashtag, #TastesLikeAustralia.

“Any of the languages represented in these outdoor ads rarely feature on the Australian landscape yet are spoken in the home every day. We want to celebrate the diverse languages spoken and put them front and centre loud and proud on our outdoor advertising,” said Bega Cheese marketing manager spreads, Jacqui Roth.

5. Cadbury’s Symbol against racism and intolerance

Brands standing for positive change have been increasingly grabbing headlines thanks to the #metoo and #blacklivesmatter movements. From anti-racist advertising like Nike’s successful Colin Kaepernick work, to Gillette’s push against toxic masculinity, brands striving to demonstrate how they were tuning into purpose and tackling social impact head-on were gaining the hearts of consumers globally.

Cadbury was one such brand taking a stand for something positive, with an initiative to fight racism and other forms of intolerance. The ‘Symbol for all’ campaign, created in Australia, aimed at making a positive impact on society. The work was inspired by years of managing hate-fuelled sentiment on the brand’s Facebook page and saw Cadbury create a visual expression to counter the negativity.

The project was undertaken by Ogilvy Melbourne, part of WPP AUNZ, and involved eight designers, project managers from diverse cultural backgrounds, plus anthropologist, Dr Marilyn Metta. The result, Cadbury’s Symbol For All, was a visual icon any person, organisation or company could customise and use to express their support for a more respectful and culturally inclusive society.

The symbol was designed to transcend all languages, cultures and faiths. Throughout the process, Cadbury consulted a range of organisations which support and advocate for a diverse and inclusive Australia, including The Australian Multicultural Foundation and Inclusive Australia.

Symbol For All was originally intended to be shared via Cadbury’s Facebook page on Harmony Day on 21 March 2019, the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. However, in consultation with organisations in A/NZ, it was delayed by one month out of respect for victims of the NZ terror attacks.

“Every single day, Cadbury’s Australian Facebook page is flooded with hateful messages and comments that have nothing to do with chocolate and everything to do racist sentiment. As an iconic brand in Australia, we have a voice and a responsibility to lead by example, which has been the impetus for the creation of this symbol,” said former Mondelēz International Director of Marketing, Paul Chatfield. “By responding to these comments with positivity, we’re demonstrating an unwavering commitment to inclusivity, and encouraging others to find the ‘glass and half in everyone’.”

6. Healthdirect’s strives for Covid clarity with multi-lingual education efforts

A wide-ranging integrated campaign for Healthdirect Australia, which is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, was created by Bastion and CulturalPulse in 2022 to help people manage their health during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The education-oriented national campaign was about helping all Australians understand that if they are otherwise healthy and vaccinated, they are likely to be able to manage Covid symptoms and recovery at home with advice and support from national public health information services, National Coronavirus Helpline and healthdirect.gov.au.

The ‘Get COVID clarity’ creative platform and positioning aimed to cut through the sheer amount of Covid information available. Messaging then focused on providing clear answers to common health questions about Covid symptoms, isolation, and recovery, positioning the National Coronavirus Helpline and healthdirect.gov.au as trusted sources of Covid health information.

Bastion developed a turn-key solution across all aspects of communication and an integrated approach across strategy, creative, media, PR, digital, including outreach to culturally and linguistically diverse populations. More than 276 individual assets were created in seven weeks, including 35 digital videos, 12 radio executions, 100 digital display outputs, 35 animated programmatic digital out-of-home pieces and 96 multicultural assets in 17 languages. Flexibility to update creative messages to remain relevant over the nine-month campaign period was also built into the program.

CulturalPulse worked in partnership to engage multicultural communities to ensure messaging was accessible to culturally and linguistically diverse audiences. This was seen as critical to campaign success given low vaccine take-up in some segments.

“The Bastion team jumped into action very quickly to get our campaign to market across multiple channels just as the information was needed during the rising Covid numbers in early 2022. The team continues to be super responsive, coordinated, and easy to work with post-launch across multiple service areas,” Healthdirect Head of Communications and Marketing, Jenni Ellard, said.

7. Building 2021 Census participation with CALD audiences

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has always hoped to encourage willing participation in its five-year national Census. But in 2021, the first Census conducted during a global pandemic faced unprecedented hurdles in terms of participation and completion.

A particular concern was reaching culturally and linguistically diverse communities, who already face barriers to participating in the Census, both in the functional completion of the survey and comprehension, and in a lack of understanding of its purpose.

Etcom, was tasked with creating willingness to complete the 2021 Census across CALD communities. Taking a behavioural science approach, Etcom identified that the CALD Census campaign needed to shift from mainstream to focus on the culturally diverse audience’s needs.

A range of tactics were employed in an integrated campaign that educated, persuaded and provided further detail on completing the Census, including culturally relevant communications and creative, PR and media. The approach was also responsive to changing external influences, which could occur with Covid-19 complications, as well as scalable for larger CALD communities, while tailored to address key touchpoints and channel needs.

With a 95% target response rate, final 2021 Census response rates hit 96.1%, with the undercount less than in 2016. For the commonly reported country of birth people, the 2021 undercount also improved significantly, sitting under 6% with non-English speaking cohorts including China, India, Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.

8. Adore Beauty embraces diversity inside and out with Global Shades initiative

Australian online beauty retailer, Adore Beauty, began its movement towards positive change in 2017 when employee and South Asian woman of colour, Shanthi Murugan, wrote a letter to the company’s founder letting her know she was unable to shop for foundation and concealer on its website. Fast forward to 2021, and the retailer felt confident enough in its cultural credentials to kick off the Global Shades initiative.

It was a step forward in a long-term diversity and inclusion effort transforming the company inside and out. For example, from a product perspective, Adore Beauty worked with suppliers and brand partners to gain access to their global shade ranges. The goal is to range 2600 different shades from 350 complexion products. A dedicated category on the website, Global Shades, was also created.

To signal the Global Shades launch, the team created an ‘open letter to all Australians’, highlighting the lack of available beauty product options for people of colour and encouraging everyone to work together to kickstart change. The Global Shades site featured an e-petition consumers could sign, plus video-based stories from Australians of different backgrounds who had directly experienced the challenges of finding products suited to their skin tones. Adore Beauty then recruited Miss Universe Australia 2020, Maria Thattil, as its Global Shades campaign ambassador.

“You need to understand the problem before working towards a solution, and that has meant listening to me and other people of colour with lived experiences of colour ranging,” Murugan said at the time. “Our first step was looking at the shades we had available and from there, getting all globally available shades.

“We realised Australian shades were skewed to anglo-centric colouring, and people of colour were excluded from that picture. We needed to educate the rest of the world to gain a more accurate picture of what Australians look like.”

Alongside the marketing and product work, Adore Beauty established a diversity and inclusion committee internally, aligned with the Diversity Council of Australia. Commercially, Murugan said the diversity and inclusion approach stacked up.

“Retail companies in Australia are working so hard to acquire new customers. It’s the strangest thing – here are people begging for the privilege of spending their money to buy your products. It’s not rocket science,” she said.

“This is an opportunity to create a new customer base of loyal customers, while servicing diversity, inclusion and expanding your market. It’s about turning a commercial challenge into a commercial opportunity.”

9. NRMA tailors marketing strategy and channels to multicultural consumers

Over the past year, NRMA has executed several offer-driven campaigns targeting CALD audiences involving a mix of channels, messaging and creative.

Among its strongest performing was a New Year Offer, providing a bonus $100 Visa Voucher to consumers taking up new comprehensive or comprehensive plus car insurance policies. The digital campaign targeted CALD audiences via WeChat in line with Lunar New year celebrations, as well as saw NRMA run hero banner advertising across its dedicated Chinese landing page. Event activations also ran during the Burwood Lunar New Year Festival in NSW, and CALD specific branches actively promoted the offer.

A second complementary CALD media campaign gave consumers the chance to win vouchers for following NRMA Insurance’s WeChat account. Geotargeted digital display banners were key, and used in NSW and Queensland. Due to limited geofencing options within Chinese Media, News Apps were also used with Sydney Today, QLD Today and Yeeyi. Amplification and a programmatic layer of banner placement with EternityX then delivered bespoke Chinese Media Programmatic activity inside the two states.

10. Responsible gambling campaign targeting CALD audiences wins awards

‘The Number that Changed My Life’ was a campaign from the NSW Government’s Office of Responsible Gambling launched in 2021.

The aim was to directly address individual CALD communities where problems with gambling are prevalent and to encourage such gamblers to seek GambleAware counselling services. Agency, LOUD, was engaged by the NSW Office of Responsible Gambling to conduct developmental research and produce all CALD creative assets, while Identity Communications was engaged to develop the communications strategy for the campaign, including the media and community engagement strategy, planning and media buying.

The campaign expanded in 2022 and was executed digitally in Vietnamese, Arabic, Chinese, Hindi and Korean. As well as meeting its marketing objectives, the campaign won a NSW Premier’s Multicultural Communications Award for excellence in the multicultural media and marketing industry.