Digital Media & Multicultural Marketing - As technology progresses and more digital media channels become available, it's tempting to focus on exciting, new and sexy platforms. However, depending on the target market, those cutting-edge applications may not yield the best results for engaging consumers.

Race and ethnicity are associated with how advertisements are viewed, according to the eMarketer report, Blacks Online: Young, Mobile and Social, a study by Experian Simmons, as noted in its Spring 2010 National Consumer Survey, race and ethnicity are associated with how advertisements are viewed. While 50.9% of white consumers typically avoided television ads, only 24.8% of black consumers felt the same. Similarly, in an ARAnet Adfusion survey conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, it was discovered that both Hispanic and black consumers were more likely to read and take action after viewing a banner ad than their white counterparts. In addition, when it came to the likelihood of taking further action after seeing a pop-up ad, it was reported that black and Hispanic consumers are significantly more likely to react to the ad than are white consumers.

Understanding that multicultural audiences are ready to view and engage with our marketing messages, we need to ensure that our messages are available on the channels through the vehicles that our target group is using. This begins with connectivity.

We know that wireless is the way of the future for multicultural audiences to access the Internet. While this is not new information, it is exciting to see just how quickly this audience is not only catching up to general market consumers, but in some cases also exceeding them via wireless connections.

Whereas white consumers have trended toward add-on cable services for in-home broadband access on their desktop computers, the black and English-speaking Hispanic communities are turning to wireless connectivity on laptops and mobile phones. In fact, laptop ownership for black consumers rose from 34% in 2009 to 54% in 2010, a 20 percentage point jump, according the Pew Internet & American Life Project report, compared with a 2 percentage point increase, from 65% to 67%, for White consumers.

The ongoing trend for black and Hispanic consumers to discontinue landline services and rely only on a wireless phone connection is also growing. The National Center for Health Statistics has stated that in 2009, 30% of Hispanics utilized wireless service exclusively in their homes, compared to 25% of black homes and just 21% of white adults. Mobile phone ownership and dependency on Internet connectivity is also higher for black consumers than it is for white consumers at 87% versus 80% respectively according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project report.

Mobile ownership is proving to be a continued critical access point for the multicultural audience. Utilization of mobile devices for activities such as texting, accessing the Internet, sending and receiving email, and using social networking sites is far higher for Hispanic and black mobile phone owners than white. For example, as found in the Pew report, 51% of Hispanics, 46% of black consumers and 33% of white consumers access the Internet via mobile devices. This "digital divide" is even larger when comparing access to social networking sites, with usage at 36% for Hispanics, 33% for black consumers and only 19% for whites.

Understanding the multicultural audiences' high utilization of social networking sites is key to benefiting from this target group's response to marketing messages. Not only are they open to receiving and responding to messages, but they are also keen to be seen as informed opinion leaders among their peers. The Pew Research Center report titled "Millennials: Confident. Connection. Open to change" found that 45% of black millennials visited a social networking site several times a day, significantly outpacing the 25% white millennials who said the same.

With this knowledge, a multicultural media mix must include banners, pop-up ads, text campaigns, mobile sites and social media vehicles that allow the target to discover your message, respond to your strategy and enable them to voice and share their opinions as thought leaders and conversation starters within their peer groups.

The marriage of marketing communications and digital technology has forever changed the communications landscape in elevating our customers' expectations, enabling true customer relationships and multiplying customer access points. The consequence of such elevated expectations is that our customers are becoming more demanding, and the status quo will soon be perceived as less than satisfactory. Technological mastery and innovation can be a sustainable competitive advantage for realizing the goal of market leadership.

By Sophy Regelous, VP, Director of New Media

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