Multicultural Market Research:
why is diversity so important?

image two African American women hug

Market research is a key component of any successful marketing effort. In order for a campaign to succeed, a new product launch to be effective and a corporate message to be delivered the right way, there’s always extensive research behind it. 

Inclusion and diversity in market research can help yield fantastic results. But including diversity in your multicultural research can be a challenging process. That’s why we decided to outline why diversity is so important for market research and a few tips on how to include it in your next multicultural market research. 

So, What is diversity?

Let’s start by defining what’s important here: diversity. If we’re going to talk nerdy, then according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, diversity literally means “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements: VARIETY”. In short, variety and inclusion

And when you think about it, pretty much everything is diverse. Your favorite restaurant’s menu is diverse. Your everyday Starbucks coffee cup can vary in a ton of ways, from the beans that are used to the way it’s prepared. And most importantly, society is diverse. People come in all shapes and sizes, from all types of backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities. It doesn’t get more diverse than that. 

When applied to marketing, diversity, and inclusion are all “about respecting and appreciating differences”. It ensures that everyone’s voice gets heard, no matter what their racial, socioeconomic, gender, sexual orientation, age, or cultural background is. 

And specifically for Market Research, diversity plays a key role you need to consider before beginning to ask questions and launching campaigns. We’ll explain why below

Why is Diversity so important in market research

Diversity in marketing research can help:

  • Ensure all ages, genders, sexualities, nationalities, religions and cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds are included in your brand’s representation.
  • Give brand managers time to make any necessary adjustments and stay on target with the company’s strategy.
  • Yield positive results that increase your brand’s awareness, engagement, and ROI.
  • Avoid marketing errors, PR fiascos, and losses in brand likeability and sales.
  • Create a brand narrative that shows a real connection with your consumers.

“According to the U.S. Census, more than 50 percent of the American population is expected to be composed of minority groups by the year 2042.”

Bridgette Austin, Small Business Chron

As the population shifts into a more diverse demographic, so too must all the marketing efforts change and adjust. Diversity helps ensure all ages, genders, sexualities, nationalities, and religions are being considered in your brand’s message and representation. 

In order to obtain ALL the data you need from a market research, you must include an adequate multicultural representation in the research sample. Because when you don’t, you could end up creating a marketing fiasco, like that unforgettable H&M campaign which ended up having disastrous consequences for the brand: celebrities ending their relationships with the store, riots erupting across South Africa and causing a temporal shut down of all the stores in the area, as well as the family of the model having to move from their home in fear of their safety. Had H&M ran a diverse marketing research before launching this campaign, all this could have been avoided. Different perspectives mean different opinions and points of view, which can help the brand see something they may have missed before. Sadly, in this case, H&M didn’t see anything wrong with the image until everything was already up and running. 

Marketing research at a professional level has a critical consultancy role. An experienced research company will be able to give you an interpretation of the possible results, which can help your company understand the message and its implications before launching. This gives brand managers time to make any necessary changes or adjustments, letting research and marketing investments stay on target and contribute to a positive ROI strategy.  

When you do diversity and inclusion market research right, you can have an impactful campaign that yields positive results, both for sales and PR. Let’s look at a great example: Nike. Taking a calculated risk, the famous swoosh brand released an ad that changed it all: the Colin Kaepernick ad. A commercial that showed people from all over the world, from different backgrounds and even abilities (and in some cases, disabilities) with ONE thing in common: they are all athletes. And they all share the same dream. 

Bridget Austin states that this is called the “salad bowl effect”, where “communities began to celebrate their differences rather than striving to fit into the dominant culture.” Today, your background and history is something to be celebrated, not hidden. When a brand manages to represent that, the message gets through.

“Gen Zers and millennials favor ads and product lines that highlight diversity”, highlights Elizabeth Chey in an article from ClearVoice. “The demand from diverse consumers these days is to see themselves reflected for all their complexity.” Human beings are complex by nature, and when you add in the cultural mix, even more so. But we tend to share a simple dream: to be better and overcome our challenges. This is where a powerful message, like Nike’s, can strike home. Because in the end, despite having different experiences, challenges, and lifestyles, we are all people. 

And this is also where brands can mess up by not considering diversity and inclusion. Michael P. Krone in “Diversity Marketing & Cultural Awareness” states that “If your customers are different than you and they feel unrecognized, you will begin to lose them.” When someone no longer identifies with your brand, they are no longer your customer. This is why diversity is so important when it comes to marketing and its research – it can make or break your customer base. 

So how do you include diversity in your marketing research? We have a few easy tips for you to conduct multicultural market research:

Multicultural Market Research Tips

1. Do your homework

Examine previous research efforts, their sampling plans, and considerations and their final results. History tends to repeat itself when one does not learn from the industry’s past mistakes.

2. Keep the differences in mind

Before launching a message, keep your target audience in mind. Here’s where the sample in the market research becomes so important: multicultural representation is key in order to obtain all the information you need before launching anything. 

3. Always ask first

The best way to determine how to address a particular group or person is to ask them! Let them be their own voice and tell YOU how they want to be addressed. Aside from taking on a more empathetic standpoint, this also helps avoid confusion and insults you may have been unaware of.

4. Don't Assume Anything

Bias is the worst thing for research marketers. Never assume anything, not even when the response seems obvious. Multicultural research is meant to give people a voice and offer you a 360º view of how your brand is perceived. 

5. Feedback is essential

Just because your survey is done doesn’t mean you’re ready to go. Compare your demographics to the general population or vice versa – change up the scope and get feedback from different sources. This will help you find any areas of opportunity and make changes accordingly (think about that H&M case!)

6. Language Matters

Your participants will feel much more comfortable answering questions in their mother tongue. Consider this before launching your research in order to obtain the best results you can. 

7. Be prepared to be uncomfortable

Yes, it’s awkward. But it would be even more awkward to launch a campaign without all the necessary information. The way we see it, it’s much better to be overcautious than to not have been careful enough. 

Whenever you test a marketing campaign, need specific feedback new product launches or simply want to understand the way a product is used, diversity is key. Customer behavior will change from culture to culture, and understanding this can help you grow your brand by truly connecting with your customers. 

It’s not a matter of pulling at people’s heartstrings with cheesy ads. It’s more of showing them that you know they’re your consumers and you love them for it, no matter where they come from.

At Zebra Strategies we tackle these conversations with dignity, cultural competence, and direct experience. From research study design and focus group recruiting to online and mobile research and field management, we have all the tools to gather all the information you need prior to your next big marketing campaign. If we’ve sparked your curiosity and you’re interested in pushing your campaign to the limit through quality data, you can request a quote with us here.

Let’s get to know the people, shall we?

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