Top Menu

Multicultural Illiteracy

Multicultural Illiteracy

“Most companies are not ready for the new realities of diversity.”
-Bob Ehrlich


I have to admit I am quite ill-prepared for the new multicultural America. I do not speak Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Korean, or Chinese. I have a new daughter-in-law from Venezuela and although she speaks perfect unaccented English, her mother does not so we do not talk as much as I would like. I am sure my grandchildren will speak fluent Spanish. I live in South Florida where Spanish is used almost as the first language. I do speak some Japanese and French, not the best languages for the new America.

As a professional marketer I am also largely ignorant as to these new demographic targets. With the new birth statistics showing Caucasian babies are now in the minority, marketers must deal with the emerging landscape of ethnic groups. While all immigrant children will learn English, they will be bi-cultural and many will be bilingual. Their parents will likely learn English to get by, but will remain largely committed to their heritage culturally.

The question for DTC marketers is how really ready are you to accept that the traditional targeting may not be adequate for the future? Is your marketing department staffed to handle the new diversity in America? I know all marketers can find multicultural agencies to help them. I know some drug companies have marketers with Spanish surnames. What I am suggesting is a true shift in staffing and budgetary emphasis beyond the small allotment of spending in most budgets.

I am not suggesting this for political correctness or for good public relations. I am suggesting this new emphasis because I think your overall DTC ROI will improve. I do not have the answer to how much better ROI can get with a much more diverse media plan. I just can say with confidence that it will improve if the media plan diversifies.

I have not talked about the African American market yet, which is also a huge opportunity. While language is not an issue, culture certainly is. I just came back from a diabetes conference and it opened my eyes to how differently African-Americans see the issues of prevention and treatment. For example, the African American speakers said obesity is viewed quite differently and being overweight is not judged the same as whites do. What messages work for whites may not work and in fact, insult African Americans.

Drug companies that see this demographic shift as a strategic opportunity will have significant competitive advantage. I am not talking about an occasional screening program in a poor neighborhood or a donation to a minority organization. Most drug companies do a lot in these areas. I am talking about advertising. I am talking about unique ad executions across several languages. I am talking about a significant build up in marketing staffing. I know drug companies have enough to do regulating messages in English. It is clearly a pain to review programs in other languages as well as deal with FDA in these languages.

The fact is most drug companies are not ready for the new realities of diversity. The opportunities to capture, share, and build new markets are enormous. I recommend all DTC departments take some time to review where they are in diversity marketing. Listen to the many diversity marketing agencies and media companies out there ready to plan media and advertising for you. I do not say blindly shift media to them. Make them show you how your ROI will improve. Challenge them to test for you. My point is simple. I admit my ignorance in how Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians might react to my marketing message. These are just the largest groups, and there is tremendous diversity among Hispanic and Asian populations. Many other significant sized populations exist such as Russian-Americans and Arab-Americans. Just admit and accept your limitations in these areas and get some advice and help.

Now here are two plugs for my business. We are starting a publication on multicultural marketing later in the year and will do our best to provide some different perspectives on the subject. Our first conference dedicated to multicultural marketing for drug/device and other health products will also start this fall. Hopefully all of us will learn more how to build our businesses through smart diversity marketing.

Bob Ehrlich, Chairman

DTC Perspectives, Inc.

Bob Ehrlich
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at DTC Perspectives
Bob Ehrlich has over 20 years marketing experience in pharmaceutical and consumer products. Bob is the CEO of DTC Perspectives, Inc., a DTC services company founded in 2000. DTC Perspectives, Inc. developed the DTC National Conference, the largest DTC conference in the industry. DTC Perspectives, Inc. also publishes DTC Perspectives, a quarterly journal dedicated to DTC issues and practices. In addition DTC Perspectives, Inc. does DTC consulting for established and emerging companies, and provides DTC marketing plans for pharmaceutical companies.
Comments are closed.