In these days of heightened cultural sensitivities, designing on-premise marketing programs aimed at specific ethnic groups can prove a dicey proposition. More than ever, it requires sensitivity, knowledge and good old common sense.
According to the experts in ethnic marketing, as well as some beverage suppliers, such programs can sometimes be handled clumsily, leaving some customers feeling as if they’ve been stereotyped and pigeonholed, rather than catered to.
The trick, then, is for restaurant and bar operators and suppliers to craft on-premise programs that will pique patrons’ unique interests without lumping them together and creating cultural caricatures.
That said, they might encounter some problems. For example, there are many different nationalities in the Hispanic category. “The number-one problem is that there are no Hispanics,” says Ryan Mathews, founder and CEO of Detroit-based Black Monk Consulting and a globally recognized futurist and consultant. “There are Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Puerto Rican-Americans, Guatemalan-Americans, Peruvian-Americans, et cetera. And in those groups you have people who have been here for five minutes, five generations and damn near 500 years. It’s not a homogeneous group, and marketing by its very nature, to some degree or another, has to create homogeneity where it doesn’t exist.”
Savvy marketers recognize the need for nuance. “We don’t set out to market to specific target groups overtly,” explains Marime Riancho, Heineken USA’s senior brand manager for multi-cultural markets. “I think the on-premise channel is a key beer-drinking occasion for all of our consumers. I don’t think there’s a wrong or right approach. But when you try to overtly target the ethnic consumer you might run into sensitivities from a cultural standpoint.”
“We do some Asian marketing, [but] we rarely do African-American programs,” says Pernod Ricard’s Saul Sola, brand manager for Chivas Regal in the U.S. Chivas enjoys “very high brand awareness, so we don’t really need to get everywhere.”
Visually and graphically, businesses show people in their ads who customers can identify with.
Much of Chivas’ ethnic-based marketing involves grassroots events, “where you want to be part of the local community and partnering with local organizations” like the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, says Sola. The brand also partners with consumer publications like Playboy, GQ, Maxim en Espanol and Ocean Drive en Espanol.
“They’ll have major parties and find themselves in need of a liquor brand,” Sola explains. “That fact that we advertise with them means they’ll call us to see if we want to sponsor any of those huge parties or fashion shows.” Indeed, researching publications that are popular with a segment of the ethnic group being targeted is an excellent way to gain insights.
“The industry continues to lean on stereotypes when reaching out to ethnic consumers,” insists Harry Wyman, president of Ethnic Marketing Associates LLC (EMA) in Bernardsville, NJ. “We cannot just have a particular story line, concept, or type of model/actor in ads all the time. The market is changing constantly. We have to take into consideration where the ad will be shown, distributed, seen, et cetera.”
Visually and graphically, businesses show people in their ads who customers can identify with, according to Wyman and his partner Maria Albarracin. There also needs to be a “consistent, on-going focus” on ethnic and multicultural messages and language, Wyman says.
“Sometimes we see all white folks, sometimes mixed ethnic, sometimes all ethnic for the same products in ethnic media,” he says. “However, we have to be cautious that we do not do a plain translation from English to, let’s say, Spanish. Instead, the concept development for the ad itself should originate from a Hispanic point of view. This will ensure relevance and advertising impact.”
Alcoholic beverage marketers need to develop on-premise strategies, marketing plans and advertising from an ethnic perspective, “from the get-go, from the concept stage,” says Wyman. “When things are just translated to make them more ethnic, they can be obvious to the ethnic customer.” Not doing so can lead to errors in use of language and lack of relevance of the concept. “Nuances of language, behavior, situational development of marketing message — all exist in an approximate environment. All need the gut feel of someone at home in that market.”
Diageo’s Dulseda liqueur, a blend of Caribbean rums and cream, was inspired by the Latin milk caramel called dulce de leche.
Companies wishing to reach these customers should use targeted local grassroots initiatives to their advantage, agree Wyman and Albarracin. “The use of targeted events and promotions are very important as part of the grassroots marketing that EMA does. We put emphasis on this, as purchasing decisions, buying behavior, and impressions of brand and company credibility are built through the grapevine and community feedback.”
Black Monk’s Mathews urges restaurant and bar operators to “remember that members of ethnic groups are first and foremost human beings, so all the rules of marketing to human beings ought to apply first. That means honesty, respect, treating the person as though he has some intelligence; not pandering.”
The whole notion of so-called “minority marketing” is a “sore point” for Mathews, co-author of best sellers like “The Myth of Excellence: Why Great Companies Never Try To Be The Best at Everything” and “The Deviant’s Advantage: How Fringe Ideas Create Mass Markets.”
“I live in Detroit. Upwards of 80 percent of the city of Detroit is African-American. African-Americans are not a minority in the city of Detroit. They are the majority. White Americans are the minority. What does ‘minority’ mean in corporate America? It means less money, fewer resources, and that you’re the lower line item on the budget. And I think that by itself is pandering and condescending,” says Mathews.
Given these caveats, certain on-premise strategies for specific ethnic groups makes good sense. The following provides some insight into attracting consumers in three major ethnic markets.
African-Americans: “Particularly with blacks, it’s brands, brands, brands,” says Gerry Fernandez, president of The Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance (MFHA), an organization dedicated to increasing the awareness and presence of diversity in the foodservice and hospitality industries. “They are focused on brands because of aspirations. There is a badge value to them. When you think of the history of blacks in America, they were excluded for so long. When they were finally included it was a ‘Hey, I made it!’ feeling. When automotive companies started marketing to black Americans, the first company to do it was Cadillac. It said, ‘You’ve arrived.'”
Alcohol is “no different,” Fernandez adds, calling it a “wasted opportunity” not to try upselling African-American customers when it comes to beer, wine and spirits.
Many beverage companies have targeted African-Americans through music promotions. For instance, Heineken recently hosted its highly successful African-American-targeted House Party concert event at the Lucaya Beach and Golf Resort in the Grand Bahamas.
Engaging hip-hop fans, the seventh annual Seagram’s Live 2005 music tour sponsored by Seagram’s Gin was set to visit 24 cities this fall, featuring multi-platinum R&B acts Xscape, Lil’ Mo, Raheem DaVaughn and Tela. A Seagram’s Live Diamonds & Ice sweepstakes promotion awarded a $25,000 jewelry shopping spree in Beverly Hills.
Hispanic-Americans: When it comes to Latino consumers, says MFHA’s Fernandez, it is important to “keep in mind that those who were born here have different brand associations than those born in Mexico, El Salvador or elsewhere.” Those operating on a more “sophisticated, bilingual level are probably much the same as your general market.”
Heineken USA again sponsored the annual Latin Grammy Awards, and as the U.S. importer of Tecate, Dos Equis, Sol, Carta Blanca and Bohemia brands from FEMSA Cerveza of Mexico, the company also sponsored Latin Grammy Street Parties, which featured top-flight entertainment from some of Latin music’s hottest artists.
“Remember that members of ethnic groups are first and foremost human beings, so all the rules of marketing to human beings ought to apply first.”
Chivas focuses on-premise activities through its sponsorship of a tour featuring the band, La Ley. “We will go to, say, 27 markets and the key is to create promotions on-premise weeks before the actual concert,” says Pernod Ricard’s Sola. At those events, all of the customized marketing materials, from table tents to bar mats, are rolled out to publicize the events.
Asian-Americans: The term ‘Asians’ includes a diverse range of nationalities — including, among others, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans and Asian-Indians. While Asians lag behind other major multi-ethnic groups in numbers, their impact as customers is clearly recognized, with a total purchasing capacity of about $101 billion.
With a current population exceeding 13 million and a growth rate of about 63 percent in the last U.S. Census, the Asian-American market is poised to compete aggressively with Hispanics and African-Americans for ethnic marketing dollars. The community is now known for its widespread affluence, huge spending power, high household incomes, higher education levels, highest per capita incomes, business savvy, professionalism and a strong work ethic.
“Firstly, you need to realize that use of alcohol is strongly disapproved of in the Asian American community,” notes Pawan Mehra, a partner in Ameredia in San Francisco CA, a multicultural advertising agency and marketing communications firm specializing in fast emerging Asian-American market.
Many Asian groups consider the use of alcohol, Mehra says, “as going against their religion, cultures and values, and its consumption rate is the lowest among all ethnic groups. But nevertheless, there is alcohol consumption in this community as well. Preference would depend upon the communities’ likings for products. Native beer brands are popular in each Asian community and so are local American brands.”
Nor should Asians be “clubbed under one group as they differ in their usages, behaviors and preferences,” he adds. Younger Asian Americans who are more acculturated would be attuned to trying new products through on-site promotions at various events, Mehra says. “They have adapted relatively more to American cultural values and adopted a lifestyle that relates more to the western culture than the more traditional eastern culture. Targeted promotional events would definitely bring better results for marketers.”
While he warns that it is “dangerous” to pigeonhole Asian consumers, Fernandez says that by and large, they tend to skew toward brown spirits.
Chivas reps target Asian consumers at key accounts like bottle clubs and karaoke bars. “In Los Angeles we work closely with our distributors,” says Sola. “They are the ones who actually sell our products, so they know the owners of the accounts and the organizations. We work with them as part of a triangle so we can really be part of their day to day lives.” For Chivas, recipes and other literature are made available in English, Spanish and three Asian languages: Korean, Chinese and Japanese.
Hitching a ride with marketing vehicles already embraced by the group you’re trying to reach - celebrities, radio stations, TV networks publications, causes and charities - is probably the smartest and safest way to navigate the potentially tumultuous waters of ethnic marketing. And the bottom line when it comes to on-premise programs, in any language, is to have fun.
Jim Beam’s Multicultural Marketing
Suppliers and distributors have taken several steps to reach out to ethnic consumers, says Aaron Brost, senior manager, public relations, Jim Beam Brands Worldwide.
First, many have hired specialists or cultural experts to increase their understanding of these consumers. Then, they have developed strategies specific to each consumer segment including advertising, on- and off-premise sampling and sponsorships.
“At Jim Beam Brands, we have a multicultural team dedicated to strengthening the relationship between our brands and multicultural consumers,” says Brost. “We start by focusing on local grassroots promotions and then incorporate national marketing programs, such as advertising. Latinos tend to favor whiskey, vodka, and tequila, whereas African Americans most often consume cognac and vodka.”
Beam has successfully increased the presence and trial of Jim Beam bourbon and DeKuyper cordials via local promotions and sponsorships, specifically among Latino consumers. Says Brost, “We found that Latino consumers are more interested in our brands once they learn more about the brand history and heritage, as well as accolades. For example, Latino consumers were more likely to taste Jim Beam Black after learning that the brand was rated the number one North American whiskey by the Beverage Testing Institute.”
Consumer research, says Brost, shows that Latino consumers will not consider a brand simply by tasting it once. Instead, they “want to learn more about what they are drinking and what makes the brand different so they can share their new knowledge with their social networks. We take every opportunity to educate Latino consumers on the heritage and tradition of our brands.”
Beam has found that marketers, “first must gain a deep understanding of the music and food choices consumed by each segment,” according to Brost. “Then, each brand must identify relevant opportunities to partner their brands with music and food promotions that help them emotionally connect with their target.”