The Australian ‘multicultural market’ now comprises 1.4 million households with purchasing power of more than $75 billion per year, but, according to several senior marketers, the majority of marketing is still being largely directed at Anglo-Australian audiences. So, are marketers missing a huge multicultural opportunity?
That was the question put the audience at a forum held by the Australian chapter of the International Advertising Association (IAA) in Sydney. What they found was the need for a fundamental shift to the mindset of marketers to realise the potential of Australia’s multicultural society in their marketing.
Maryanne Tsiatsias, director of consumer and small business marketing at Telstra, says marketers are aware of the huge opportunities that exist, for example that the Chinese and Indian communities are the fastest growing in Australia.
“It’s whether you choose to take advantage of the opportunity and whether you’re willing to take the risk… because it requires a fundamental change of how you market… and it is very difficult,” says Tsiatsias.
“Although the multicultural market might comprise 20% of the population, within that population there are a myriad of diverse communities, and each requires granular understanding and targeting,” she says.
Director of marketing at SBS, Helen Kellie told the forum marketers needed to be sincere in the social media age and that being authentic and wholehearted was the best way to go when engaging in multicultural communication.
“(Multicultural communication) might be lead by the marketing team but it has to convey your whole organisation.
“Don’t do it half-cooked,” she says.
Procter & Gamble’s marketing director for Australia and New Zealand, Sujay Wasan, agrees, saying, “(Multiculturalism) has to be part of your DNA, your culture and structure. It gets fuelled and it gets momentum if you have a champion for it at the highest level of your business.
“And meaningful connections require deep understanding and insights that may not be gleaned in the normal way marketers do research.”
Another reason for the lack of multicultural marketing offered was that many cultures are shy and not comfortable about speaking out honestly against brands in focus group settings. “Sometimes, to get the right information, it has to be more a one-on-one scenario that may involve liaison with a community leader,” says Sheba Nandkeolyar, CEO of MultiConnexions.
Tsiatsias supports this, saying she was most struck by the complete lack of information when Telstra embarked on a major multicultural marcomms program 18 months ago: “We had to build a lot of things from scratch.”
Kellie added that it is fortunate that SBS has staff from many ethnic groups that the network is reaching out to. “We have journalists and production teams from those groups and that helps us understand how to market to those groups,” she says.
However, Kellie challenged the notion that multiculturalism is a ‘niche opportunity’.
“It’s absolutely mainstream. 45% of us have at least one parent born overseas, that’s nearly half the population.”
Despite multiculturalism being a core aspect for SBS when it launched 30 years ago, with 270 languages spoken in Australia, the “job is certainly not done,” Kellie says. Ironically, although SBS caters for Australia’s ethnic melting pot, “the flip-side is that part of our job is to talk to all of Australians… via common themes and human stories that can be taken to everyone”.
Tsiatsias called on all marketers and agencies to, “look at your advertising and ask ‘is it representing Australia?’”
“Don’t be afraid of racism, take responsibility and start to represent what true Australia looks like.”