Assimilation Through Adaptation

In today’s diverse market, there is often a disconnect between the audience and the communicator; where advertising campaigns are promoting a way-of-life that many of their customers do not live. One of the biggest mistakes companies make when attempting to assimilate a new demographic into their client pool is misunderstanding: building a campaign around preconceived notions and attitudes while neglecting the time-consuming strategies of honesty and core understanding. Successful advertising can no longer cater to the lowest common denominator. Distinguishing yourself requires an understanding of not just your consumers, but how your brand fits into their lives. Only through cultural sensibility and an intricate comprehension of the identity and desires of a new market, can you hope to tap into it.

Companies looking to diversify their market must do so with care and a realization that the identity of the minority demographic extends far beyond language. Reflecting the lifestyle of a target market and its people is crucial. We live in a multi-cultural society, a true melting pot of international influence and ideals. In fact, the 2010 U.S. Census determined 36.3% of the American population belongs to a minority group. That’s a third of the marketplace. Thus, if companies are hoping to tap into the minority market, the implementation of both native language and ideals in their campaign is a necessity. According to Linguistic Anthropologists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf, developers of the linguistic relativity concept, language serves as a “lens” through which the world is understood and interpreted. Yet success in a minority market isn’t as simple as translating your advertising efforts into a different language. The demographic is composed of individuals, each with a set of personal values forged out of their cultural identity. You must cater your campaign to speak to the distinctive character of each potential client, rather than the perceptions of the population as a whole.

Honesty is the best policy
Cultural accommodation fosters a relationship between the advertiser and the audience. However, the assimilation of language and values must be done with authenticity. If the viewer detects manipulation or external pressure to conform, the integrity is lost. It is all too easy for an advertisement’s message to get lost in translation when attempting to assimilate the work into a new market. Each new demographic must be treated and understood as a unique entity, with it’s people holding their own set of distinctive values which the advertisement must be catered to order to establish an emotional/psychological link.

When Dell Children’s Medical Center attempted to assimilate their children’s health insurance program, (CHIP), into the Hispanic market of Central Texas, they came to Screamer Co. for guidance. Seton was looking to run their insurance ads in both Spanish and English while focusing on a primarily Hispanic audience. Although the minds at Screamer Co. were eager for a breakthrough, the team did not assume to understand the intricacies of the Spanish market. Instead, we hired a Spanish creative director to lead the campaign, conceptualizing spots for both radio and print, while the Screamer Co. team worked with the producers of Telemundo, (a spanish Television station), on commercial advertisements. The campaign was successful due to the patience of its production. Screamer Co. truly understood the market, its people, and how to talk about their CHIP insurance program. Furthermore, the strategy was conceptualized in Spanish first and then adapted to English to ensure there were no discrepancies between demographics. An honest campaign was the priority, one where the meaning and message of the advertisement was transferred to the audience rather than just the literal verbal translation.

Evaluate your brand
In order to establish and maintain credibility with a diverse market, there must be an evaluation of your unique brand. What does your company stand for? Who does your brand speak to? Your brand guides your business. It is the core of your company and establishes an identity. What demographic does this identity most fall in line with?

Your brand should evoke qualities potential clients see in themselves. According to a Kansas State University study on the effects of sociolinguistic similarity, an increase in common ground between individuals correlates with an increase in level of attraction to another. The study goes on to show that an honest attempt of accommodating the other and their interests leads to strong feelings of desire and a willingness to break down cultural barriers. The same goes for your company as the stronger the link between your brand and the consumer’s identity, the better the prospect of procuring that customer’s business. Thus, when attempting to break into a new demographic you must first grasp the values of your brand and from there study your potential client base to assess whether or not those values are shared. If you find no common ground between your business and the new market, so be it. A fatal error of many companies is the attempt to force their ideals upon a market that has no interest. A mutual respect is a necessity. The last thing you want your business to be associated with is a flip-flopping identity born out of a desire for profit. Assimilation is not something that can be forced, it requires a willingness by both parties to work together for mutual benefit.

As our culture continues to diversify, successful businesses are ones that adjust to the changing landscape of influence. Assimilation of your company into a new market is not something that happens overnight. Patience and a willingness to perform your due diligence is critical. A broadening of your client base requires a narrowing down and study of your target. Each demographic must be assessed and analyzed for what they are: unique. Through such analysis, your business will be better prepared to carry-out an advertising campaign correlating with the markets belief system as well as your own.

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