Marketers Need to Rethink How to Mix Multicultural Themes and American Cues in Advertising

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As advertising approaches a tipping point in the need to appeal across multiple demographics, marketers are asking “what really works across the wide spectrum of identity that is America today?” Our analysis of ads unpacks the conundrum and reveals some startling insights.

Despite increasing political polarization and the risk of misfires, more and more advertising is being released that reflects a wider embrace of different ethnicity, racial backgrounds, cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations, and stories of the American experience.

Nike’s controversial embrace of stances taken by Colin Kaepernick and Serena Williams represents the long view that activating against these themes is a necessity even if the earned media upside comes with some near-term pain.  But unfortunately, many marketers struggle to understand the creative subtleties that can make or break a campaign that blends these themes.  Even the most well-funded brands experience high profile missteps.

Using our proprietary AdCompare methodology using facial tracking and machine learning, we generate Total Market Quotient (TM-Q) that allows comparison of ads.  The higher the TM-Q the better

Our detailed analysis of 20 ads will be presented during our Fall 2018 Roundtables, but here are a few preview findings:

Marketers win big by eliciting an emotion we call “peak sentimentality.”

Peak sentimentality best predicts interest in sharing an ad with others, the perception that the message is important, and an improvement in the opinion of the brand. Marketers succeed in capturing viewers’ hearts and minds (and wallets) when the ad tells a story that elicits this emotional mix of sadness and surprise, and ties it to the brand effectively.

Sustaining emotion into the branding moment makes or breaks an ad.

Marketers must ensure the branding moment has a logical connection to the underlying narrative of the ad.

Culturally-authentic casting is a safe bet.

Marketers generate high TM-Q for all segments when diversity seems natural and not “manufactured.”  Diverse casting in a conventional situation (like a biracial couple making dinner) is also a safe bet.

Cultural themes can be both high risk and high reward.  

Themes outside the “traditional mainstream” like immigrant experience, gender and sexual discrimination, and non-traditional families perform well with Hispanics and Asians, but both African-Americans and non-Hispanic Whites take strong issue with these messages.

Asians and African-Americans are polar opposites when it comes to “American cues.”

Perhaps one of the most provocative findings in our study indicates that African-Americans respond poorly to “traditional” American cues, with exceptionally low TM-Q. By contrast these same themes produce very high TM-Q in Asians, indeed far greater than with non-Hispanic Whites. Marketers must vet Creative closely to be sure that traditionally “safe” American themes do not drive unintended consequences with target audiences.

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If you’d like to learn more, contact us below.  Members can access the full findings, check out research on Creating Culturally Authentic Content or check out our approach to ad testing. Non-members can learn more by reaching out to

“Family Values” allows marketers to avoid the risks of multicultural messaging

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It’s a common assumption in messaging research that multicultural consumers are liberal, but when brands and advertisements try to put this idea into practice, their efforts often fall flat. It is therefore important to investigate the appeal of specific messages on individual cultural segments.

Collage Group has sought to explain these differential outcomes, making them a core focus of our Ad Rating Survey. As part of the survey, we asked respondents to take an unambiguous stance on 13 selected social trends, in four categories:

  • Non-Traditional Family
  • Race
  • Youth
  • Activism

After analyzing the results we found several interesting takeaways:

Rather than featuring a strict divide between liberals and conservatives on all issues, multicultural values breakdown into three categories.

The largest group is Social Liberal (44% of the population), which tends to approve of trends across all four categories, followed by Social Conservative, with 29% of the population tending to disapprove of all the mentioned trends. A third group, however, responded positively to trends regarding race, youth, and activism, but negatively on non-traditional family trends.

Multicultural consumers are substantially more likely to feature Family Values than Social Conservatism.

For White panelists, Social Conservatives outnumbered Family Values consumers, but for all other categories the opposite was true.

This was especially the case for African-American panelists, whose proportion of Family Values consumers was very close to its proportion of Social Liberal consumer. Over a third of Hispanic and Asian respondents were also in the Family Values segment.

Hispanic acculturation corresponds with a shift from Family Values to Social Conservatism

Comparing unacculturated against acculturated Hispanics reveals a shift away from the Family Values segment and towards Social Conservatism, while Social Liberalism remains relatively unchanged. This trend suggests that acculturated Hispanics divide themselves on social issues in ways that are similar to Non-Hispanic Whites.

Understanding how Family Values shapes multicultural social views is essential for marketers eager to appeal to these fast growing and influential consumer segments. To learn more about how you can leverage these preferences to produce valuable brand outcomes, please email

Health Care Marketing: The Diagnosis Gaps of Multicultural Consumers

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The health care industry is fraught with change. Between insurance legislation changes and the visible rise of health tech, the industry is in constant flux. However, there’s another incredibly important shift occurring inside the doctor’s office, that receives less attention. The increase in multicultural patients.

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How Brands Can Break Through a Polarized America

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With the rise of multiculturalism and a chaotic political climate, brands have found themselves in a tough balancing act. Often, they need to decide if they should stay on the sidelines or take action, at the risk of becoming a punchline.

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Identity Demographics Drive Where Brands Should “Take a Stand”

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In 2018, it can seem like a brand expressing a political or social opinion can be equivalent to stepping on a minefield. On Twitter and beyond, everyone is entitled to an opinion. Backlash can come quickly from either side of the political aisle. Our clients are increasingly asking us for guidance on when their brands should take a stand, and which areas are no fly zones.

To help answer this, we launched an initiative examining polarization in America. So, what social issues do consumers want brands to talk about?

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The Big Shift: Multicultural Consumers Had a Strong Positive Impact on Most Industries over the Past Decade

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What is the Big Shift?

For the past several years, Collage Group has published the Big Shift, a project which examines the role of multicultural consumers in America’s economy.

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Life Insurance: Connecting with Multicultural Consumers

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A 2016 study by the Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association (LIMRA), estimated that 48% of U.S. households have an average coverage gap of $200,000. This unmet life insurance need adds up to over $12 trillion in total market opportunity. So how can brands capitalize on this? We examine the roadblocks that multicultural consumers face when it comes to buying life insurance, as well as opportunities for brands to connect with them across the purchase journey – pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase.

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How to Connect with African Americans through Authentic Content

African American power and influence in the cultural arena is on the rise, and many brands recognize the segment as a major opportunity. To help clients improve their outreach efforts to these consumers, we developed a three-part learning series. We partnered with Google for the initial session to explore beauty habits and trends for African American women. In the second part, we turn to connecting via cultural content.

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African American Beauty Trends – A Webinar with Google

Have you ever wondered what African American women care about when it comes to beauty and how to speak effectively to this audience?  We recently partnered with Google to co-host a webinar for leading brands and creative agencies to uncover what African American women are doing online to inform their beauty routines and purchases. The companies shared powerful insights and messaging recommendations to help brands connect with this critical segment.

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Convenience Stores: A $140 Billion Opportunity

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Multicultural consumers are changing the retail landscape and the way brands approach shopper marketing. Convenience store marketing, however, is often neglected and poorly understood, especially across multicultural segments. But why? According to Nielsen, convenience-store sales represent 17% of total retail sales, and reached $140 billion in 2016, up from $126 billion in 2012. This trend, combined with the rising purchasing power of multicultural consumers, reveals a big need for multicultural insights within the convenience-store channel.

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