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Interview Amy Gómez: Cross-Cultural Branding is an insight-driven strategic approach

Amy is a Cross-Cultural Marketer and inclusive culture builder with 20+ years of experience helping Fortune 500 companies communicate effectively with diverse consumers. Amy spearheads the creation of relevant and impactful communications for the segments driving growth in the U.S. today: Hispanic, Black, Asian, and LGBTQ.

1. What is Cross-Cultural Branding for Amy Gomez?

Cross-Cultural Branding is an insight-driven strategic approach. It begins with mining for the insights about the consumers who drive population growth and cultural trends in the U.S.: Latinx, Black, Asian, and LGBTQ+, and then embedding them into your brand’s communication strategy. The brand communications that result will be relevant for the market at large, but particularly resonant for these high-growth segments because the brand has thought about them from the outset. This approach impacts everything from how the brand shows up verbally and visually, to where the brand shows up from a media and activation perspective, and pulls through to the partnerships the brand establishes and the causes it supports. It’s important to note that this approach doesn’t exclude insights about non-Hispanic White consumers – it simply doesn’t prioritize them.

2. Why Brand should focus on Cross-Cultural consumers and Cross-Cultural driven marketing? And why this is essential for the growth of any brand?

Demographic trends make it a very simple equation. Multicultural consumers were responsible for 92% of U.S. population growth from 2000 – 2014, and nearly 100% of the growth from 2014 to the present. Forty percent of the U.S. population today is multicultural; the under-18 cohort is already majority multicultural; and the national population as a whole is on track to become majority multicultural in 2045. Brands that don’t know how to communicate effectively with these consumers don’t have a rosy future.

But there’s another important rationale for cross-cultural branding beyond demographics. Younger non-Hispanic White consumers – Millennials and Gen Zs – have grown up in a world where Black, Latinx, and Asian role models drive cultural trends across music, entertainment, cooking, politics, and sports. They actively seek out experiences from these cultures and they expect the brands they support to be diverse and inclusive – it’s table stakes for doing business with them. So, while they may be White, psychographically they are very multicultural!

Amy Gómez and her team from Geometry, teaching a Cross-Cultural Marketing Bootcamp in Akron

3. What are the top challenges Brand Managers, Marketers & company leaders face when it comes to build and execute a successful Cross-Cultural Brand Strategy?

One challenge is simply having the expertise: Cross-Cultural Marketing is not typically included in the curriculum for advanced marketing degrees and MBA programs. (A notable exception is the master’s program in Branding and Integrated Communications where I teach at City College of New York!) So even marketers who understand the imperative to communicate effectively with high-growth segments tend to rely on executional approaches -- casting actors of color, translation, and media placement. The problem is that if you wait to think about Cross-Cultural Branding until the executional phase, it’s too late. A core tenet of Cross-Cultural Branding is that culturally based values and beliefs drive multicultural consumer behavior, so the relevant insights need to be an integral part of the Brand Strategy.

Another challenge is securing resources to execute the in-depth cross-cultural research and analysis required for a marketer to avoid generalities and stereotypes. In spite of the demographic realities outlined above, too many marketers still treat high-growth segments as a side dish rather than the main course!

Finally, brand teams and company leadership still have a long way to go with regard to diversifying their ranks to be truly representative of the New Majority America. More diverse representation internally will accelerate the awareness and urgency to prioritize Cross-Cultural Branding.

4. What about Latin America? What are the top challenges you see for that specific market?

As in the U.S., Latin American countries are extremely diverse: Indigenous, White, Black and Asian, obviously with a different mix in each country. However, from a Cross-Cultural Branding perspective, Latin America is in a different place. European values and representations are still often the norm, meaning the challenge of income inequality and historical hierarchies of class and race are still a difficult reality to grapple with and overcome. We’re certainly seeing more LGBTQ+ representation, and there is a lot of sensitivity around sexist portrayals of women, but overall, there has been more progress in the social/political realm than in the marketing and branding world, with strong pro-Black movements in Brazil and other countries. A notable exception within media was Roma star Yalitza Aparicio’s whose appearance on the cover of Vogue México marked the first time a person of Indigenous descent appeared on the cover in a country that is majority Indigenous and mestizo.

5 What about Inclusion? So many brands claim to be “Inclusive Brands” but quite often it’s just a marketing message they showcase on Social Media. How can Brand professionals influence the overall brand strategy to help to transform organizations into truly inclusive workplaces with inclusive products and inclusive brand messages?

The question clearly evokes the outpouring of Black Lives Matter support on social media from brands in the wake of George Floyds’ murder. As we all saw, our social feeds filled up with a sea of somber black squares with white type proclaiming corporate solidarity. The trouble is, as your question suggests, many of these statements were from companies that weren’t providing pay equity to their Black employees, weren’t investigating and acting on internal reports of racism and discrimination; and weren’t supporting – through donations and/or volunteerism – the organizations driving social change. Cross-Cultural Branding and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are two sides of the same coin, so a company that isn’t doing one likely won’t be able to do the other either. That’s why Brand professionals’ influence can only go so far. They can craft inclusive strategies and create inclusive brand communications, but it’s up to the executive management team – with the guidance of their Diversity leads – to ensure that the brand actually embodies that strategy.

5. Can you mention any 2 or 3 examples of Brands that you consider are doing a great job in addressing these topics and/or with strong Inclusive brand strategies? (Could be Brands that you have worked with or any other Brands/Strategies that you admire). Any examples of industries or companies that need to do a better job with transforming their brand message, values and culture to be more inclusive?

I would call out two categories of brands that are doing a great job. The first are certain legacy brands that realize how critically important multicultural consumers are to their bottom lines. A great example of that is McDonald’s – they have a long history of leaning into cross-cultural intelligence to create authentic, inclusive work. The second category is digitally native brands that were created to be diverse and inclusive at their core. Fluide, ThirdLove, and Fenty Beauty are great examples, just to name a few. As for brands that need to do a better job, I have a whole folder of examples that we discuss in my Cross-Cultural Marketing class. These brands have received significant negative attention in the press and my hope is that they are using the attention to listen, learn, and course correct.

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