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As we reflect on CulturalPulse’s podcast series, CALD Talks, we look at several key learnings to fuel authentic and sustained multicultural marketing that delivers growth.

Over the last several months, CulturalPulse has had the pleasure of hosting more than a dozen industry and marketing leaders in the podcast studio for our first series, CALD Talks. Our 6-part podcast explored the growth opportunity presented to brands who embrace a proactive multicultural marketing approach. To do this, we took a deep dive into topics ranging from stereotypes and unconscious bias to media targeting, influence and word-of-mouth, community engagement, language and translation and what CMOs from CALD backgrounds see themselves bringing personally to the craft of marketing.

There are many insightful lessons from these episodes for marketing leaders and their teams on ways to realise multicultural engagement. Here, we pick a select few that stood out.

1. Multicultural marketing is too big a growth opportunity to miss

The overwhelming message from the CALD Talks series is the multicultural opportunity in Australia is simply too important and significant for brands to ignore. Repeatedly, guests acknowledged 51.5% of the Australian population today was either born overseas or have at least one parent who was born overseas. Census 2021 data also shows nearly one quarter speak a language other than English at home.

“Understanding today’s Australia and being abreast of the different migration groups that have come here is important because it’s such a large population,” CulturalPulse CEO, Reg Raghavan, said. “It presents a massive growth opportunity for marketers.”

Over the next five years, at least 1 million migrants will be invited to come to Australia from different ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds. This reinforces the fact multicultural is no longer the minority, it’s the mainstream. Yet CulturalPulse chief creative officer, Patrick Skene, said brands and agencies are lucky to hive off 5% for addressing these audiences.

“The expectations are so high on that 5%, It’s also often a one-time deal where you have a gun to your head to get results immediately, which doesn’t align to the way communities work,” Skene commented.

“I’m at the stage where you’re negligent if you don’t market to Asian communities as far as growth. If you’re in charge as a CMO and keep doing the one-size-fits-all, you’re not acting in the best interests of your company if you’re not effectively marketing to these multicultural communities,” Skene said.

2. Culturally diverse perspectives are critical internally

With such multiculturalism present in Australian society, many podcast panellists reflected on the importance of having culturally diverse perspectives represented in their businesses. This provides impetus to exhibit cultural nuance externally and through marketing programs.

For American Express VP of brand, member experience and marketing, Naysla Edwards, a first generation Australian born in Columbia, being culturally distinctive is a strength in the leadership team and ensures inclusive culture is embedded in ways of working.

“I feel like my voice matters,” she said. “I feel like I bring a diverse opinion and thinking from a different angle to the rest of my colleagues. That creates very positive, healthy debate.”

With so many migrants on their way to Australia, Diversity Australia CEO, Steven Asnicar, stressed how important it is for CMOs and business leaders to start building internal ways of working that ensure inclusivity, not just diversity, flourishes.

“This new workplace needs to think about new respective work laws, psychological safety at work. Because that is how you create an environment where anyone can feel safe and can be accepted, valued and respected for their culture, ethnicity, background and those diverse beliefs,” he said.

Baiada head of marketing, Yash Gandhi, who was born in India, agreed culturally and linguistically diverse leaders can challenge status quo thinking and ensure diversity moves from a tickbox to a strategic growth driver.

“The different perspectives we can bring can shed a different light or way of looking at things, can influence how we market, can influence our consumers in such a broad way. That’s really untapped,” he said.

ABC director of audiences, Leisa Bacon, agreed making cultural inclusion top of mind in content and marketing programs was diversification of the workforce. “My big tip is to have a diverse workforce: You’ll have more diverse marketing campaigns, more diverse products and you’ll reach more people.”

3. Empathy and building trust is critical to CALD engagement

These brand and business traits are also critical if brands are to demonstrate empathy and build trust with CALD consumers – a crucial step to achieving cut through.

The money transfer market is almost completely reliant on migrants and multicultural consumers for business. VP of Instarem by Nium, Michael Minassian, said understanding where a consumer is on their migration journey is the first must to engaging with them.

“Are they a new arrival, or been here less than five years? If so, their needs are going to be different to some of those more established migrant communities that have been here 40 or 50 years,” Minassian explained.

Nuances and behaviours exhibited by these communities are the second critical element in building empathy and trust. An example is Instarem by Nium’s hybrid awareness and performance campaign targeting Nepalese and Filipino communities in Australia during Covid. This used emotive creative highlighting the work of Filipino nurses during the pandemic and sending money home.

“We saw some great results in targeting that community, centred around stories and how that community was rallying around to send money back home in the time of Covid,” Minassian said.

4. Look for the right insights

Tapping the right data and insight to understand multicultural consumers was another consistent theme throughout the podcast series. Episode 2 panellist, Commonwealth Bank head of community engagement, Malini Raj, was encouraged by growing employee appetite to open dialogue with culturally diverse consumers.

“There’s no point coming to us at the end of a project when it’s too late to make changes. More and more, they’re coming at the early stages, understanding that using community insights to develop an approach will benefit in the long run,” Raj said. “There will be less rework, more impact and it’ll be more effective. A co-design approach means the end user is more receptive to the end product as well.”

All too often, Raj saw potential box ticking by inserting people of colour on websites or translating one pamphlet as the response to marketing campaigns.

“It’s about really thinking deeply about what we are trying to achieve and who we are trying to communicate with as an end user,” Raj said. “What are the channels, how can they absorb information more effectively?”

5. Media targeting and reach needs a rethink

The gap in true insight is particularly apparent in media targeting, which took centre stage in Episode 5. For panellists including JCDecaux head of data and insight, Cristina Smart, Active Adventures chief growth officer, EJ Gamboa, and CulturalPulse’s Raghavan, media targeting remains largely a reach and channel-based game that’s the detriment of brands better engaging CALD audiences.

“Whether it’s outdoor or different kinds of channels, those solutions have become more sophisticated with postcode data,” Raghavan explained. “The adventure of social and digital ads and digital targeting makes some of these language-based targeting and behaviours a lot easier too.

“However, it’s not a full solution. Some communities, like Indian communities, speak English and surf the Web in English, for example. So you can’t just choose a language option. And there’s a lot of crossover – Aussies and other people eat Chinese food as well.”

Then there’s the issue marketers aren’t looking for the right insights in the first place. “There’s definitely an acknowledgement of wanting to reach different audiences and meet them where they’re at, particularly through government,” Smart commented.

“But I would also say sometimes we still get certain creative executions or briefs from an advertiser or an agency that don’t necessarily factor it [multicultural] in. Once we demonstrate the capability, they get really excited about what’s possible.”

Gamboa warned marketers about the tendency to want to tick a box, rather than understand what’s behind the insights and potentially question them. “The reality is those audiences are built in different ways, using different data points at the disposal of the companies that enable this targeting. So it’s not a guarantee you’re effectively or completely targeting your intended audience simply based on the targeting criteria you selected on your ad platform.”

CulturalPulse’s response to this has been to build 7500 multicultural look-a-like cultural profiles, allowing clients to target Cantonese speakers who are second generation, for example. This is augmented by working closely with community and influencer channels.

6. CALD influence and influencers go hand-in-hand

The power of influence is another critical part of multicultural marketing. In Episode 4, the conversation was dedicated to word-of-mouth and influence in marketing. Panellists highlighted the halo effect when brands respect the influence certain cultural community leaders hold, or the behaviours that manifest off the back of community beliefs.

“Something we really focus on at Social Soup is to talk about influence, and not influences,” said Social Soup founder and executive director, Sharyn Smith. In the context of CALD groups, the pathways to influence often come back to the community.

Raghavan highlighted Hofstede’s six cultural dimensions as a vital element in understanding what influence looks like in CALD communities. The six dimensions are: Power distance; seniority or hierarchy; individualism versus collectivism, masculinity versus femininity; uncertainty avoidance; and long-term versus short-term orientation.

“For me, it’s a fantastic piece of work because it really gets to the heart and the difference of how these behaviours present themselves when it comes to a marketing or communications context,” Raghavan said. “An example could be if you come from a collective culture, you probably want to see multiple people in your ad because you’re looking at the relationships between those people.”

Smith pointed to power-distance ratio as a good example of something that would affect who the agency might choose as influencers for a marketing program. “For more collective cultures, you’d be focusing influence programs much more at that community level.”

L’Oreal Groupe chief digital and marketing officer, Georgia Hack, saw the shift towards consumer-first rather than product-led as giving marketers the path to stronger cultural resonance through word-of-mouth and influencer marketing programs.

For example, a recent campaign, ‘Find your shade’ by L’Oreal Paris was born out of the insight many consumers from diverse backgrounds find it challenging to find a suitable foundation make-up shade. In response, the brand created 40 shades and engaged 40 different faces to represent them in creative. The campaign reached more than 4 million people locally and globally.

“We’re connecting with an audience at that micro level. But we’re also talking to them about diversity, that not everyone is equal, and we can cater for that from a brand perspective,” Hack said.

7. Stereotypes can be good and bad

An arguably more controversial example of distinguishing cultural differences is by tapping stereotypes. For panellists on Episode 1, using a stereotype in marketing can be good or bad depending on intention and outcome.

UN Women Australia CEO, Simone Clarke, saw many stereotypes coming from ‘isms’ such as racism or sexism. “Does the poor behaviour and the discrimination, racism and sexism then fuel the stereotype? Or conversely, is it both hand-in-hand? By extension, what does that then look like?” she asked.

The remedy for Clarke comes in marketers and creative teams asking themselves what they are presenting to consumers and audiences and if they’re perpetuating the worst stereotypes or challenging them. UN Women is very much on the case too through its Unstereotype Alliance, which is about working with brands to ‘unstereotype’ marketing material and collateral for good.

Raghavan, however, saw stereotypes potentially benefiting marketers if used in the right narrative and with the right intent. “It’s becoming aware of our own biases in a way, particularly in that creative area,” he added.

8. Language choice is about hand and heart

Language is a further lever for authentic engagement – if marketers employ language wisely and with context. 2M Language Services founder and CEO, Tea Dietterich, noted concepts, behaviours, what you laugh at and how you express frustration all change when you’re a consumer that speaks more than one language. She positioned translation as an investment into brand exposure, customer loyalty, retention of teams, risk management and more.

“Essentially, multicultural Australia is mainstream Australia. If you want to add more customers you need to speak to them,” Dietterich said. She pointed to work done by two big four banks translating mortgage documents, which led to a spike in mortgage applications, as an illustration of this. Telstra’s dedicated in-language customer support was also seen to boost satisfaction rates.

“And this is really important: It increased the loyalty and stickiness among multicultural communities,” Dietterich said.

A CALD engagement program CulturalPulse executed for the FIFA Women’s World Cup promoting the 30 nation teams to qualify outside Australia and New Zealand not only celebrated stars from each nation, but featured that nation’s chant in their native language. This led to 20,000 people watching the Canadian and Nigerian heat.

9. Rethinking measures of success

Which leads to a final point raised across the podcast series: We’re still too focused on reach as marketers when we need to be more about engagement. Overall, podcast guests made clear time and again multicultural marketing can’t just be seen through the lens of diversity and inclusion work, or by including an ethnically diverse consumer in your creative, or by translating a billboard. It’s about authentic, sustained engagement.

“There is a huge opportunity now to think directly about how to engage the whole of multicultural Australia. And we need to do that from an insight-led strategic position,” said CulturalPulse Chief Growth Officer, Karissa Fletcher.

“Just because advertising or messaging is being exposed to these audiences, it doesn’t mean they’re taking it on. They’re not necessarily understanding the nuance. They’re not understanding the human and it just doesn’t relate to their everyday lives or reflect something they know and understand. So it bypasses them. So you’re possibly reaching but you’re not engaging or connecting.”

Want to find out more about how you can improve your multicultural marketing muscle? Check out the wealth of insight on offer through CulturalPulse’s new podcast series, CALD Talks here.