They say that one of the best ways to learn is to make mistakes. I agree with whoever “they” are. Also, I think that if you can learn from the mistakes of others, please do so. This is especially true in multicultural marketing, where one mistake cannot just embarrass you, but really disconnect your brand from your target audience.
Here are three major multicultural marketing mistakes that have been tested by other brands. They made them so you don’t have to!
Almost a year ago, Mountain Dew faced criticism for a commercial that featured a battered woman identifying her attacker from a lineup of several African-American men and a goat. See the stereotype issue here? Not only was it an uncomfortable subject with the battered woman, but the commercial reinforced the stereotype that all criminals are African-American. The commercial was immediately pulled off of YouTube due to the high volume of complaints it received.
You may not realize you’re stereotyping for something on a smaller scale, like a simple social post. Home Depot featured a tweet that asked “which drummer is not like the others?” Unfortunately the image posted with the tweet featured two African-American drummers and one Caucasian drummer, disguised as a gorilla. Many viewed this as direct racism and The Home Depot soon deleted the tweet, and announced that they fired the agency and individual responsible.
To avoid inadvertent racism in your marketing efforts, it is helpful to review small details with more than one person. Someone from a different background may not see the same message as you, and can help to avoid any confusion.
Using direct translations
The ever-popular “Got Milk?” campaign launched in Mexico with the same slogan. “¿Tiene(s) leche?” or “do you have milk?” ultimately translated to “are you lactating?” in Mexico.
Lesson learned: be careful if you have to translate, especially with sentences that do not necessarily even make sense in English. If you need, hire an actual translator or see if you can find a contact who is actually part of your target audience’s culture. You will learn something new, and avoid embarrassment!
What other multicultural faux pas would you like to warn about? If you want to learn more about multicultural marketing in general, check out Connecting with Latino Audiences.