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What’s stopping brands from engaging with multicultural Australians and harnessing cultural inclusivity?


With 51.5% of Australia’s population either born overseas or having at least one parent born overseas, multicultural consumers have officially become the mainstream. Yet multicultural marketing remains a largely untapped opportunity across huge swathes of the marketing profession.

So what is stopping marketers from claiming a slice of this very significant pie? One of the biggest reasons why is many marketers simply aren’t aware of the number of multicultural Australians in the first place.

The bulk of today’s marketers and agencies are based in urban centres and are commonly situated in less multicultural postcodes such as the Eastern Suburbs or North Shore of Sydney. This means they don’t experience the growth of cultural diversity in their day-to-day lives. Such a myopic view is exacerbated by an lack of diversity within marketing teams, hindering development of multicultural marketing programs. In other words: Out of sight, out of mind.

According to CulturalPulse CEO, Reg Raghavan, a lack of belief in the philosophy of an integrated multicultural nation state as another challenge. “People prefer the idea of assimilation, as influenced by bad examples around the world or without our borders,” he says.

Unconscious biases, or belief and fear in the ‘other’, inadvertently influences marketing decisions and perpetuate stereotypes too. This often works to the detriment of the brand or the cultural group itself. How many of us, for instance, assume all Indian professionals are in IT, or that all Vietnamese people, whether new migrants or second generation, are fluent in reading Vietnamese?

“These biases may lead to overlooking or misrepresenting certain cultural groups, resulting in effective or incentive marketing campaigns,” Raghavan says.


On the flip side, some marketing leaders may be hesitant to engage with multicultural audiences for fear of offending them or making cultural missteps. “This fear of cultural insensitivity can lead to inaction or a reluctance to take risks in executing multicultural marketing programs,” says Raghavan.

More pragmatic stumbling blocks are resource constraints such as allocation of budget and time to allocate to research, developing culturally relevant content, or engaging with diverse communities effectively. Without prior business cases demonstrating the potential value or upside, articulating ROI can be another challenge.

“The absence of appropriate metrics and measurement tools for assessing the success of multicultural marketing efforts can hinder leaders’ ability to demonstrate the impact of these programs. This, in turn, may discourage further commitment to multicultural marketing initiatives,” Raghavan says.

Then there’s the age-old problem of resistance to change within the organisation.

Practical next steps

So how do we break old habits and build the new ones needed to seize the multicultural market growth opportunity in front of us?

Procter & Gamble global brand chief, Marc Pritchard, is one of biggest advocate globally for multicultural consumers as the biggest growth opportunity available to marketers today.

He believes the first step marketers must take if they’re to harness this opportunity is to take an objective view of their current behaviours to then change and grow. In his 2021 manifesto, New Habits for Multicultural Growth, Pritchard details five new habits for the marketing discipline to adopt if they’re to ensure multicultural marketing is a North Star for brand and business growth.

The first is challenging mindsets.

“We live in a diverse country with multiple cultures. People’s needs and wants are shaped by the culture they associate with. There is no one size fits all. People are proud of their identity, and they want to be seen and heard,” Pritchard states.


To make this a reality, Raghavan believes ‘multicultural’ should be a strategic imperative owned by the CMO or Chief Customer Officer directly, with progress reportable to the Board. Not because of sheer diversity principles, but because cultural inclusivity ties directly to commercial growth potential and shareholder performance.

The second must is more inclusive research. “You need an appropriate sample with proper cultural representation. CALD samples are not considered,” Raghavan says.

“Further to the above, ensure you have culturally proficient staff to conduct interviews. We have seen so many mistakes. For example, white men from consulting companies requesting an interview of Muslim women on their antenatal experiences in hospitals then wondering why they didn’t turn up for the interview or wondering why they didn’t open up much.”

The third centres around traditional beliefs around media reach. “Is it sufficient to simply be reaching a percentage of multicultural audiences that’s slightly above the average? Where are we reaching them – national TV or social media? How much is in programming or content that resonates, like in Black-Hispanic-Asian-Pacific-Native-owned media?” Pritchard asks. “Let’s establish the new habit of truly diverse media reach, which means going for 80 to 90% media reach among each multicultural consumer group to close the share gap.”

For his fourth point, Pritchard lists three ‘Rs’ – Representation, Relevance, Resonance. “Do the individuals in your advertising and brand content reflect the population you’re serving? Find out by auditing representation of roles in your advertising over the past year,” he advises. An audit of P&G brands showed casting of 29% Black characters but only 9% Hispanic, 7% Asian-Pacific, and no Native or Indigenous talent.

Representation or visually representing multiculturalism through talent isn’t enough on its own. Truly engaging multicultural audiences means ensuring storylines that deliver accurate portrayals of lived experiences, attitudes and beliefs.

“Don’t get cute with being ‘creative’. Know your creative limits,” Raghavan says.

Again, this is about thinking inclusively inside and out. Ensuring media supply chains are culturally inclusive is another vital step in making multicultural marketing relevant, representative and resonant.

Pritchard’s fifth habit is putting dollars behind your commitment to multicultural marketing. “At P&G, our goal is to have the number one brand in every category among Black consumers – and to accomplish that, we intend to be the number one spender in Black-owned media and to significantly expand the ecosystem,” he says. “We’ve made partnership investment deals with the top media companies. We’re investing money in program content development. And we’re enabling automated programmatic media buying for companies to unlock spending. In two years, we’ve doubled our spending, and we intend to continue doing so.”

Raghavan believes investing in multicultural media will provide a halo effect for brands. “Steal the competitive edge from competitors,” he adds.

On a final note, marketers should consider including an appropriate and knowledgeable CALD agency in their rosters.

“Work with an expert. We use lawyers to navigate the depths of law and so use a CALD expert to navigate the depths of CALD,” Raghavan says. “CALD can be a risk as much as an opportunity.” 


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.