Targeted marketing yields lessons for broader appeals

Inside GlobalHue's headquarters.

Photo credit: SHIRAZ AHMED
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As the face of America’s population has changed, so too has the business of multicultural marketing and advertising.

At GlobalHue, a pioneering multicultural ad agency that got its start in the Detroit area creating promotions aimed at African-American consumers, executives increasingly see an opening to take on projects with a broader reach, using insights gained through their more targeted pitches. While the term “multicultural” traditionally was used in a race-based sense, they say, it has evolved to include diverse lifestyles and demographic categories covering millennials, the LGBT community, women and the military.

GlobalHue’s top executives say their work with Chrysler, namely the well-received Bob Dylan Super Bowl spot that aired in February, shows how their agency has become adept at crafting creative work for the broader market.

Dennis Castillo, GlobalHue’s group account director, and Vida Cornelious, GlobalHue’s chief creative officer, sat down with Staff Reporter Vince Bond Jr. to discuss how changing cultural dynamics influence automotive marketing.

Q: How did GlobalHue get started and how has its mission evolved?

Castillo: GlobalHue started as Don Coleman & Associates. It was a targeted African-American agency at the time when Don Coleman founded it [in 1988]. And then in the early 2000s, we partnered with a Hispanic agency at the time and an Asian-American agency to form what we now know as GlobalHue, and [it] really is a testament to Don’s vision. He saw the marketplace was really evolving. As much as there is still an opportunity to target from an African-American, Hispanic or Asian standpoint, he saw the landscape was changing. That’s kind of how GlobalHue came to be. We truly believe the influence of more multicultural consumers is very prevalent among the bigger market overall today.

Dennis Castillo

With today’s diversifying population, do you think the day of the multicultural agency is going away?

Castillo: I don’t think so. I think it’s strengthening. It’s actually increasing in value in my opinion, but it’s a matter of what type of communications or how you evolve the product that you put out there. Yes, there is still room for doing targeted African-American, Hispanic and Asian work but there’s also a lot of room to do more total market or more general work that still taps into the insights or knowledge of multicultural consumers, but influences the broader audience.

How does today’s diversity affect how you approach commercials for the mainstream market?

Cornelious: We’re very proud of our proprietary research process called Insight, which is what helps us identify unique insights, relevant insights of the minority market and leveraging those insights to then use them to inform ideas that can reach a broader, total-market audience. It’s almost like working the funnel in the opposite direction — going into the ethnic segments to really understand their motivations and insights about them to then see where those themes can be leveraged.

What are the key differences between a multicultural and a mainstream commercial? Does the messaging change that much?

Cornelious: Well, obviously we are always in servitude to our brand voice or the aims and goals of our clients in terms of what their brand proposition is. How we lend that brand proposition from ethnic groups or multicultural groups is where the differences can lie. Yes, those messages will ultimately ladder up to the same promise, but it’s the way you reveal the promise to the audience that makes the difference.

Freedom means something very different for an African-American than it maybe means traditionally for a Caucasian person. It’s just that simple. It’s understanding those differences that you’re able to make those communications relevant to those individuals.

Vida Cornelious

Photo credit: COURTESY: GLOBALHUE

Do you find it challenging to blend that messaging in a vehicle commercial?

Cornelious: I feel as though we’ve been very successful in being able to take brand values and truly understand where the nuances lie for the audiences we are speaking to, so when we have opportunities to do a piece of creative that we know is going to run in targeted media, there’s a way we can skew that same overarching promise and premise to mean something very specific or very resonant for the audience that is going to be viewing that work. As a body, it still holds together as one campaign. That comes from having the experience and the knowledge and the willingness to really understand that there is a need that your message can be somewhat massaged [or] tailored.

Give an example of an instance in which you have massaged a message.

Cornelious: We had a proposition to relaunch a vehicle for the Jeep brand that had done a cosmetic update. We were looking for a way to position the [Compass] for millennials to find a real relevant insight that would attach itself to them. The vehicle hadn’t taken full advantage of its heritage, of its Jeep 4x4 capability.

It led us to a place of really understanding that everybody has a bloodline. Even this vehicle has a bloodline. If you don’t do something with your bloodline, what is that really saying about you? It turned out that that type of thinking, the notion of heritage, of what you do with your heritage as a young person -- the millennial mind-set of saying, “Hey, I have an opportunity to make my mark on the world, but I know I come from something” -- is a very relevant insight about millennials and their mind-set. …

Within that notion of bloodline, though, we were able to drill down even deeper for, say, a Hispanic consumer and really understand what the ties of family and a family name means as another layer for them. You have the larger overarching message of bloodlines, but then we were able to drill down even further within that campaign to be more resonant for the ethnic groups.

What are the big untapped opportunities in multicultural marketing?

Castillo: Traditional multicultural has always been defined as African-American, Hispanic or Asian, but there are obviously a lot of other groups out there from a targeting standpoint, from LGBT to other groups such as the military or other commonalities that other groups share. There’s definitely more opportunities to micromarket: youth, women, millennials.

Cornelious: We are living in a world where multicultural or multicultured is lifestyle-based. Understanding that helps you be able to cross beyond color lines especially as color lines become more blurred, literally. One in every five babies born is a multicultural blend.

I think it’s very important for an agency like ours, and other agencies that have a multicultural founding, to really know how to evolve themselves and evolve the conversation to be about multicultured lifestyles as well.

Automakers such as Ford and General Motors have established reputations that have formed over generations. Is it difficult to market for brands when so many people already have well-defined opinions of them and their products?

Castillo: Yes, there are a lot of people out there who already have well-entrenched perceptions and opinions about a brand. But as we’ve also found out, the opportunity to evolve that thinking or evolve that opinion is still very much possible. It takes time for certain brands; some brands you can probably do that a lot quicker, depending on how well entrenched it is in the marketplace.

Cornelious: I think that’s also another reason for brands to understand why the millennial audience is so critical. … Their overall value system with how brands interact with their life is a very different style of communication and marketing. I think the evolution of the auto industry as well as other industries is going to depend heavily on who can engage the millennial audience in the right way, a transparent way and one that makes them a part of the conversation.

What are some of the broader challenges you’ve come across in automotive marketing?

Castillo: It almost feels like everything has been done out there, but there is always that room or opportunity to find something new to carve out our own space. It’s very competitive. It’s also become very fragmented. All the vehicles, I’m sure for consumers, they almost all sound and feel alike to a certain point. But it’s also an opportunity for our brands to be able to find that unique space. How else can we rise above all that clutter? It’s a challenge and an opportunity.

Cornelious: I also think the opportunity is we’re becoming a more global marketplace in general. It gives an opportunity on the automotive side to really craft larger messages, messages that can tap into consumers and connect to consumers across the globe. You’re no longer just talking to the American auto buyer. In a way, you’re talking to the automotive landscape in general and that’s a way of really carving out a personality and a unique space for where your vehicle exists and where the brand exists. It’s also allowed us to elevate the quality of what we’re saying. I know many years ago, automotive advertising was really about just spitting out the features and who could be first to come to the market and say they have the new this and that. Really it is moving into a space of lifestyle, where we want to really attach to people’s mindsets and their lifestyles and their belief systems.

With your Jeep spot with the military families, for example, it seemed that the car was a character in the commercial. You weren’t touting features. Is that something you see happening more in automotive marketing?

Cornelious: This idea that messaging is becoming a lot more philosophical and there’s a lot more thoughtfulness behind our motivations, behind the tensions we live with every day [and] the storytelling is becoming a lot more prevalent in how automotive advertising is being done. I’m not just talking about the brands we work on. You see it in the industry across the board, which, of course, makes it more challenging for us, because now everybody has a big story. But in a way it’s great because it really is letting the consumers see that the brands have emotions almost like them. They’re human like them in a way. I think that’s a good thing when it comes to differentiation.

You can reach Vince Bond Jr. at vbond@crain.com. -- Follow Vince on Twitter


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