The decline of a national narrative is being replaced by the rise of a multicultural market.
Globalization has been the major trend at the outset of the 21st century. Today’s consumers are value-conscious, interactive, multicultural, health-driven, socially responsible and always connected. To be clear: a multicultural consumer is any consumer with more than one cultural or ethnic background or affiliation. For example, an Asian-American consumer may simultaneously identify with being both Asian, as well as American, and hence may like products that are designed to appeal to both.
The continuously advancing technology enables instant personal links between individuals from all part of the world, even the most remote ones. The social and cultural lives of individuals are consequently changing irreversibly. The ideas of space and time are also changing irrevocably. It also enables previously unbelievable economic exchanges and political connections.
Open borders and the influx of migrants are the consequences of new market friendly policy decisions taken in the 1980s. This change in the policy of multiculturalism was stimulated by the world entering a new economic phase of globalization, the creation of the single market and precipitated by the collapse of the Soviet Union, making it possible for transnational corporations to expand across borders while making huge migratory waves possible.
Globalization has, in many countries, diminished the importance, and role, of the nation state while simultaneously causing nationals to assimilate the culture of their host nation. Indeed, some might say that the whole world became a ’global village’.
Former, national businesses are now often run by people of different cultural backgrounds selling to multicultural consumers so they need to interact with consumers from diverse backgrounds.
Societies are becoming more multicultural as developed markets see an influx of migrant workers and foreign students, while existing ethnic populations expand. For example, in the US, babies born to minority groups represented a majority of all births for the first time in 2012.
If we are still thinking of Americans as WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants), perhaps it is time to reconsider our stereotypes. The census results are significant because they show major shifts in the cultural make-up of American citizens, from their age to their ethnical background. A record 14.6% of marriages between people of different ethnicities or race is just one example of how the population is changing at a rapid pace.
Some countries such, as the UK, have a long history of dealing with multicultural differences with many waves of different nationalities migrating to the country over the years. Others, such as Italy, are new to the diverse and bulky flux of migrants and are facing new challenges in industries, like clothing retail, which is struggling against strong Chinese competition.
No matter what country you now reside and work in, the workplace is a mirror of such demographic change and means different approaches to meetings, negotiating, building trust and closing sales as a result, all of which will impact the success of doing business and selling across cultures.
Companies are slowly beginning to recognise that a multicultural has a strong impact on marketing and business. A more diverse cultural background means that consumers’ preferences and habits are more varied and marketing campaigns must pay a lot of attention to revised social expectations and attitudes.
Increased awareness of your potential clients’ requirements and expectations across cultures is the new way forward when doing business both abroad and at home. Adapting your sales and marketing techniques effectively to a multicultural consumer base requires a unique set of cultural skills and understanding.
But please note that being culturally inclusive and aware is more than simply choosing a set of images that include a range of ethnically diverse people.
Cultural awareness for marketing means being able to identify consumers’ unique cultural values, attitudes and preferences and being able to adapt the product or advert accordingly. This takes significant sensitivity and cultural understanding. But a clear focus will raise current customer satisfaction and avoid alienating potential new customers as the paradigm shifts from homogenous to heterogeneous buying habits.
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