When Multicultural Marketing Goes Wrong

With all the different cultural groups in the United States and the abundance of products available, companies are finding more and more of a need to engage in multicultural marketing strategies. In certain cases, the need for this marketing is obvious like with hair products designed for a particular ethnic group. In other cases, companies are just trying to expand their customer base to included more diverse cultural groups.

There are four ways in which companies can create a more specialized marketing plan aimed at a particular group. Advertisers and alter their use of language in order to build a connection with a particular group. They can play on different aspects of cultural awareness. They can utilize different media vehicles that are more likely to reach their intended audience. Finally, they can alter the time and places where their advertisements run in order to better reach certain demographics.

Now, while this kind of marketing is necessary, it is also something that needs to be done carefully. One market where companies are finding the need to market to particular cultural group is in the beer and alcoholic beverage industry with regards to American Hispanic populations. This due to both the increasing purchasing power of this group in the United States and the growing popularity of Mexican beers like Corona, Dos Equis, and Modelo. With a growing demand for marketing and advertisement of beer to Hispanic populations, a few mistakes of been made.

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In 2013, MillerCoors learned a difficult lesson about multicultural marketing when they distributed their attempt at an ethnic beer at the NYC Puerto Rican Day Parade. The beer can had the Puerto Rican flag on it and read “cerveza oficial” meaning the official beer. All different Hispanic groups in the United States were outraged that MillerCoors would imply that their product was the official choice of all Puerto Ricans and use one of the countries national symbols to hawk their product. To add insult to injury, the theme of the parade was “Salud-Celebrating Your Health”, and studies bu the National Institute of Health show that alcohol abuse is a major health threat among Hispanic populations. The cherry on top of all this was that the ad campaign was called “Emboricuate” a made-up word that plays on the Spanish word “emborrachate”, which means “get yourself drunk,” and “Boricua”, a Puerto Rican term of endearment. The campaign was shut down due to extreme public outrage and criticism.

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To say MillerCoors had a lack of cultural awareness is an understatement. They attempted to alter their language use I. Order to better connect with their target group, but they did not understand the terms they were using and the significance they held. And the lack of understanding about the cultural group created further disconnect from the words being used.

Juan Tornoe of Cultural Strategies, a marketing and communication firm specifically geared towards marketing to diverse cultural groups in the United States, has several useful tips about the best messages and a channels to use when marketing to Hispanic populations. But one of the most important things he said was to do extensive research and be extremely sensitive with any Spanish terms you use in your campaign. MillerCoors should have I vested more time and energy into this.

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