Pepper Miller provided a perspective on Total Market that was published at Forbes. Miller might be too polite in her exposition, despite openly stating, “The truth about Total Market strategy is the elephant in the room: It’s not working.” Actually, it is working. For the ruling White majority, that is. Total Market involves White advertising agencies—with the Total Support of White holding companies—seizing Total Control of the Total Marketing Budget, snatching even the crumbs from minority peers, ultimately resulting in the Total Destruction of multicultural shops. It’s Total Bullshit.
The Promise And Reality Of ‘Total Market’ And How CMOs Need To Address It
By Pepper Miller
Total Market strategy is defined by the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies as “a marketing approach followed by corporations with their trusted internal and external partners which proactively integrates diverse segment considerations. This is done from inception, through the entire strategic process and execution, with the goal of enhancing value and growth effectiveness. In marketing communications this could lead to either one fully integrated cross-cultural approach, individual segment approaches, or both in many cases, but always aligned under one overarching strategy.”
Proponents of the approach promised a new, innovative and inclusive approach for reaching The New America. However, despite articles, white papers and presentations, many marketers are still confused about what Total Market strategy is. The truth about Total Market strategy is the elephant in the room: It’s not working.
In reality, it’s business as usual, with multicultural segments being addressed via casting and work that is often stereotypical. And many marketers are now realizing that multicultural market share and customer-satisfaction gains made when ethnic agencies were used are evaporating.
The shift of large percentages of ethnic ad business to general-market agencies within the past decade was swift, shocking and devastating. As general-market agencies reap the business of multicultural business, ethnic consumer patterns and opinions indicate that results have been less than stellar. Also, current staff is untrained, and minority talent on both the agency and client side remains sparse.
“We don’t have the talent that understands the multicultural audience. The right talent is an investment proposition,” says Esther Franklin, executive VP, head of Americas Experience Strategy at Publicis Media.
Co-CEO Cory Isaacson of Walton Isaacson avoids that Total Market trap by making inclusion a priority. “I’m this white guy (partner and Co-CEO Aaron Walton is Black) who strongly believes in the diversity of thought and culture because it provides the most powerful solutions for our clients. It’s part of our mission and values. It’s the right thing to do and the way to win.”
Carlos Santiago, CEO of Santiago Solutions Group, also reminds us that some corporations’ decisions to dismantle internal multicultural resources only further intensifies the need for ethnic talent: “The dissolution of multicultural centers of excellence puts more responsibility on already strapped brand managers,” he said. “There’s no one to call to ask for help, except general-market agency partners who lack ethnic talent and who are not cultural experts.”
Additionally, given that technologies have changed the way people interact with brands, marketing is required to do more with less. The only mandate is “efficiency,” with few concerns about being “effective.” Many marketers who continue to believe that ethnic audiences effectively can be reached with general-market media alone use this erroneous practice. This approach often ignores obstacles that prevent effective ethnic engagement, for example, low brand awareness, pricing issues, and the need for relevant content and programming. TMP requires a media overhaul where new standards and measurements are established.
“There is a major, industry-wide issue around analytics, media and ROI…. Current industry media measurements need to evolve because there is no consideration for culture, relevance and influence,” says Lizette Williams, multicultural marketing leader, North America, at Kimberly-Clark.
Kirsten Atkinson, VP of media and branded integration for Walton Isaacson, adds, “The future of effective measurement is the ability to quantify unduplicated reach against audiences across channels and establishing a standard metric and/or industry benchmark for ‘relevance’ and ‘resonance’ of communication efforts.”
And while Hispanic budgets see slight increases, budgets for the Black segment were decimated, especially following the 2008 election of President Barack Obama and the belief among marketers of a new, post-racial society. Further, during the economic downturn, minority segments disappeared from many marketers’ radars. As a result, CPG, automotive, QSR, financial services industries and large non-profits are not effectively engaging these consumers. Worse, many are now losing customers –especially Black customers — who at one time, for many, over-indexed on their brands.
At the realization of losing ethnic segments or not moving the needle, fixing the problem is often associated with denial and fear, but fear of change is the most conspicuous.
Jeffery Bowman, a pioneer and controversial player in Total Market, promotes change management through his business Reframe the Brand. “My business model is focused on a change-management outcome, not a marketing outcome. We’re losing the multicultural conversation and need to make the business case [for it],” says Bowman.
Accountability too is an important factor for change. Susan Cavanaugh, Procter & Gamble’s media innovation and ethnic communication planning brand manager, says that all parties, especially brands, should be accountable for Total Market success. “Brands need to engage more, but we don’t want to enable brands with mandates. They don’t work. So, we encourage brands to share their multicultural strategies and key performance indicators. We are providing research that empowers them because [Total Market] is not easy…. You have to push people to be more inclusive and teach them how to be culturally relevant.”
In the end, Total Marketing is neither good nor evil. It is not a diversity initiative. It is a concept of how marketing could work. It should be inclusive, and CMOs should keep minority-focused agencies and media in the mix to continue to address the specific needs of these segments.