American consumers are experiencing a cultural transformation of unprecedented scope and scale. The pressure is on to rethink marketing with a focus on authentic connections that tap into culture, identity and emotion. This rapidly evolving landscape requires a new approach to assessing and building brands, centered on what we refer to as Cultural Fluency.
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What makes a brand culturally fluent?
Cultural fluency is the ability to use culture to efficiently and effectively connect across consumer segments. Culturally fluent brands:
- Are culturally resonant across multiple segments: Hispanic (acculturated, unacculturated and bicultural), Black, Asian and White.
- Deliver authentic cultural expressions.
- Make culture a core component of their strategic approach.
Acculturated Hispanic: More likely to use English across language contexts, and to identify as American over Hispanic
Bicultural Hispanic: More likely to use a mix of English and Spanish across language contexts, and to identify as both American and Hispanic
Unacculturated Hispanic: More likely to use Spanish across language contexts, and to identify as Hispanic over American
Based on more than 10 years of research into multicultural America, Collage Group has developed a unique way to measure the cultural fluency of brands through our proprietary BrandRate metric. We begin by ranking brands on our Brand Cultural Fluency Quotient (B-CFQ), and then decomposing the metric to explore how key features drive B-CFQ. The metric assesses cultural resonance along six dimensions selected from a process of pilot studies where we tested more than 20 measures.
Since our launch of BrandRate this spring during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve surveyed more than 10,000 consumers to evaluate about 300 brands. Our demographic focus is on the New Wave, 18-to-39-year-old consumers across all race and ethnicities. This segment of consumers includes Millennials and older Gen Zs who were the first generation to be diverse, and whose experiences led them to expect diversity in their friendships, daily interactions, education, media and marketing.
During the past four months, we’ve evaluated brands across more than seven industries including: alcoholic beverage, food, home care, personal care, automotive, retail, quick service restaurants (QSR), and select apparel, financial services and technology “reference” brands. More will be added across the rest of the year.
To help marketers and brand managers set aspirations, we’re pleased to share our first snapshot, including the top seven most culturally fluent brands, as well as two additional brands.
Two powerful observations from this initial analysis:
- Six of the seven to brands have built strong reputations with one or more multicultural groups, whose resonance with the brand exceeds that of the white consumer.
- None of the brands have low scores in any one component score across demographics that is overcome by high scores in another, a characteristic more common in lower ranked brands.
Our rankings thus far reveal where top brands derive their strengths and offer evidence for the success of recent campaigns and strategies. Our members are now using BrandRate data on their own brands to identify learning gaps they can close with insights from existing syndicated research or from commissioning custom research projects.
The Top 7 Most Culturally Fluent Brands of 2020:
- Lysol: No other brand has brand trust scores higher than 90% across three multicultural segments, and it’s no surprise that they are a brand leader amidst the current pandemic. Lysol was one of the first brands to be approved for use in protecting against the spread of COVID-19. The brand specifically ranks highly among Black and both unacculturated and acculturated Hispanic consumers.
- Clorox: Another brand uniquely positioned in the pandemic environment, Clorox is performing well above other brands when it comes to shared values. The brand is specifically appealing to bicultural and unacculturated Hispanic consumers and is well-positioned for sustained growth.
- Google: While performance is near-uniform across racial and ethnic segments, one area they have hit the mark is on Shared Values with Black consumers. This is likely a win from their “Black Girl Magic” campaign celebrating the influence of Black women and girls that began in Spring 2019.
- Amazon: Amazon over-indexes on all six dimensions within the Bicultural Hispanic community. The CEO of Amazon’s competitor, Target, offers interesting insight into their experience of losing share among Hispanics, which is that Amazon better supports a rise in cocooning within this segment.
- Hershey’s: The iconic American brand ranks highly in all six dimensions among unacculturated Hispanic consumers, specifically in sparking positive memories. During the past five years, Hershey’s has heavily invested in Mexico as part of the company’s growth plan – a likely reason for resonance among this audience.
- Dove: While the brand scores are relatively even across the board, Dove receives notably high ratings among bicultural Hispanics. Contributing to this ranking are the recent campaigns inspiring Hispanic women to celebrate their own definition of beauty.
- Tide: Performs high among Asian consumers across all six dimensions. On suspect this is related to the “Loads of Hope” campaign, where the brand offers free laundry services. During COVID-19, the campaign has offered free laundry services for first responders; Asian Americans represent 17% of doctors in the U.S.
When considering your multicultural marketing strategy, you may be asking yourself, “Is there a particular demographic that can take my brand to the next level? A segment that could be a standout for brand loyalty and advocacy?”
The answer: Strength with one or more multicultural demographics is more typical of high performing brands than strength with White consumers. Indeed, our research has shown that tailoring marketing to Black and Hispanic consumers has significant crossover effects to White and Asian consumers.
We look forward to continuing our research and providing actionable insights for brands based on our B-CFQ findings. Our BrandRate meta-analysis planned for release this fall will take these findings to the next level, and we look forward to sharing them with you. Watch the webinar replay at the form above and contact us for more details.