Targeting ethnic minorities

Date of publication: June 15, 2013


In recent decades, our societies have grown more diverse and multicultural. Reaching minority consumers has emerged as a priority for marketing, and specific targeting strategies have appeared. For instance, advertisers often attempt to approach minority consumers when their ethnic identity is most salient. Targeted ads typically feature spokespeople or models with the same ethnic background as the target, as well as other cultural cues. These strategies presuppose that ethnic groups are homogeneous. Yet, even within a single minority, not all consumers identify with their host and heritage cultures to the same degree. Generational status - whether a person was born in another country and relocated to the host country, or rather was born in the country their parents had relocated to - is one factor likely to affect the effectiveness of these targeting approaches. Second-generation minority consumers constitute a growing demographic. They are more likely to identify as biculturals: this means that their ethnic identity can change depending on the context they find themselves in. Because of this, the impact of attempts to activate ethnic identity should be stronger in these consumers than in first-generation minority consumers, whose ethnic identity is chronically accessible. In addition, because of the relative weakness of ethnic identity in second-generation consumers, spokespeople with the same heritage should have less of a positive impact on them than on first-generation consumers. In other words: ethnic identity activation should have a more positive impact on responses to ethnic ads among second-generation than first-generation minority consumers; ethnic spokespersons should have a more positive impact in first-generation than in second-generation ethnic minority consumers. The goal of this research is twofold: first, investigate whether these two effects are found in the field, and second, determine how to best reach a particular target by taking into account its generational profile.

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