Cultural Cognizance Reaches Beyond the Masses to Drive Customer Growth


For many global companies based in the United States, there is the potential to cater to a multitude of world cultures within the U.S. But first, companies must have an understanding of what it means to be culturally inclusive when addressing different cultures within its footprint. And business management must be willing to take a more granular and holistic approach to business if companies seek to grow by providing products and services to more niche communities.

Leaders at the top must embrace the commitment needed to address different cultures and be willing to help employees understand that there are significant differences between ethnically diverse U.S. consumers – as well as various commonalities. To be culturally cognizant means to understand ethnic communities, their cultural lifestyles, and how to interpret them. When consumers are addressed in a culturally relevant manner, it could mean a world of difference for companies – as well as significant growth.

Today, many of us might still consider the U.S.-born to be the majority in population within the U.S., but many foreign cultures have been penetrating our country over the years and will soon no longer be the minority – but the majority. If this pace continues, by 2020, the younger segment (under 18) will experience the majority-minority crossover. By 2030, nearly one in five of the nation’s total population will be foreign-born. By 2060, the Hispanic population will more than double in the U.S., followed by the African-American populations and the Asian segments.

Within the U.S., no matter where you live and work there are diverse populations and this means an opportunity to target multicultural segments in order to gain growth for your company. Now is the time to seek cultural knowledge and drive real change for businesses today. Especially when today is all about consumer demand. No longer can we cater to just one consumer. Each one is culturally different no matter where they come from. And many times, companies still operate with the mindset that if messaging works for the masses, it will resonate with all. This is certainly understandable for companies and the ability to reduce customer acquisition costs with standardized product innovations, product development and marketing communications, for example. Some successful brands have even been able to align general market strategies with mainstreaming to the dominant culture, with successful results. Regardless, this is short lived these days. Eventually brands will need to adopt a newer strategy to drive further growth by catering to different cultures. The challenge is not to completely disrupt the standardization process, but also acknowledge that the U.S. is made up of a large non-assimilated market that could be targeted to increase revenue.

For those who see the potential, they must seek a shift in strategy by learning to cater to more niche segments. Companies must be willing to challenge what has always worked in the past, in order to driver stronger and more loyal customers among a variety of assimilated and non-assimilated segments. Customer engagement and customer experience are much richer and significantly more successful when organizations consider cultural lifestyles and adapt to customization. Companies must learn to challenge the strategy beyond just translation to different languages and instead transcreate to the cultural experience. This means addressing cultural lifestyles, and being sensitive to community response to economic and cultural conditions. Sensitivities to cultural experiences can make a profound difference when integrated into product designs, customer service and other areas of the business. And global consumers will be extremely grateful when communicated to in a manner that is relevant to their life experiences.

“McDonald’s addresses the needs of a diverse consumer market – as shaped by demographic, economic and local factors around the world.” Forbes

Some great examples of culturally relevancy in play include the magnificent efforts of McDonald’s over the years. It is a brand that is keen on segmentation and experimentation such as modifying menu items based upon consumer trends and local popularity. McDonald’s offered inexpensive menu items in the U.S. during the baby-boomer times of the 60’s and more healthy choices during the 1900s and early 2000’s.

This is also true for the countries that McDonald’s operates in. There is a strong focus on cultural differences and each menu item is different based upon the culture, for example, Ebi Filet O-Shrimp burgers in Japan, Austria’s McNoodles, McNürnburger from Germany, and Peru’s Chicha Purple Temptation dessert.

And consider Nike’s most recent product design for Muslim women athletes. The design came about from athletes complaining about a cultural challenge relating to sports and will be sold in the U.S. as well as overseas.

Ultimately, if businesses approach potential and existing customers in a culturally relevant manner, many of these ethnic segments will drive stronger word of mouth about your products and services because they are so closely tied their communities – and closeness builds trust. If ethnic consumers believe that your organization takes the time to understand their lifestyles and needs, you will connect with them on a very personal level, and only then will you have won the battle for long-term loyalty.

Becoming culturally cognizant means doing a deep dive on multicultural segments within communities, and then dissecting down to the multi-generational household level to best understand the cultural tipping points that separate the niche from the mass markets. Today’s big data resources will help you to uncover the unique differences and allow businesses to hone in on diverse customers and prospects in a manner, which is required to reach them. Teams will discover that there are commonalities as well as differences; however the challenge is to find both, and to use this cultural knowledge for developing key differentiators in your business markets.

Challenge what works and step into the world of the unknown. Culturally relevant innovation is at its best once understood, and the results can be astounding for business growth. And many times, the biggest obstacle lies within the challenge of change management and requires team training and education on how to best approach ethnic communities living in the U.S.

A thoughtful approach on how to reach unique segments in your footprint can take time, but there are also simple first steps that can quickly be put into place that will have an immediate impact, such as altering how sales calls are handled. More advanced approaches can include developing products and services based on niche segments, or developing a separate marketing plan tied to the largest segments for best effect and results. The challenge lies in bringing all these things together for greatest impact.

The good news is that most businesses can immediately start to address ethnic opportunities within their markets, by simply observing the company footprint and researching the biggest potential opportunities. With access to big data analytics, companies can certainly learn how to better understand the behaviors and demographics of customers and prospects and eventually use that data to build an organizational story of cultural inclusion based upon who potential customers are. Once you have buy-in from key members of your organization – you can drive innovation on a very niche level that ultimately is guaranteed to achieve deeper, more longer lasting customer relationships and greater growth – simply because you are honing in on the cultural individualities of your communities.

Catering to ethnic communities within your footprint is most definitely a more long-term investment, and one in which will sometimes require a holistic but individual approach between mass markets and niche markets. If done properly and consistently, businesses that aim to understand cultural differences and act upon it will be guaranteed to see the fruits of their labor, and this means, not only more customer growth but more advanced innovations for all of us.

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