Total Market Pendulum – To be or not to be Total Market

Let’s face it, the Total Market strategy does not work, especially for performance marketers and retail.

On paper, the Total Market approach looks good and sounds better in the boardroom. By definition it “proactively integrates diverse segment considerations…throughout the entire strategic process …to enhance value and growth effectiveness” (Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies). The basic premise of this strategy is that companies would think about, and address, every single segment of their target market and account for language preference, ethnicity, geography and other critical factors from inception through media placement. This should lead to one fully integrated multi-cultural approach, or, ideally, to a combination to fully reach the intended audience. In media terms, it means planning buys to specific media goals by leveraging general market media channels that also reach multicultural consumer segments. 

In reality, the net result has been a focus on efficiency at the cost of engagement. The Total Market approach assumes that if the media reaches enough “acculturated” and “assimilated” multi-cultural consumers then the goal has been accomplished.

For many marketers, total market has been addressed via multi-cultural casting, stereotypical creative and a steep reduction in ethnic media spend. This led to the realization among many marketers that Hispanic market share and customer engagement growth advances are not pacing to the demographic growth that multi-cultural segments can deliver. The shift to “one-stop” general market agencies singularly focused on achieving efficiencies has had a detrimental and direct impact on ethnic consumer patterns that do not support the value proposition espoused by Total Market proponents.

Case study after case study consistently demonstrate the value of planning using culturally specific methods along with the wide-angle total market approach. This ensures that all consumers are being addressed effectively and respectfully. In turn, this drives consumer engagement and ultimately activation among all consumers – not just the more acculturated. It is the responsibility of both the client and the agency to identify brand growth opportunities and address them responsibly to maximize the business opportunity.

All mass messaging, regardless of language, has to communicate brand values and benefits to individual consumers, and with a singular voice. This may sound contradictory, but when executed correctly, it is not. Ethnic consumers do not live in a bubble. Despite language and cultural differences and/or similarities the culture at large permeates to all of us. Therefore, when a brand communicates a given value proposition to one set of consumers (i.e. the general market), that message has to be consistent to all other consumers (i.e. the “multi-culturals”). It may sound different, it may look different; but, at its core, it should be the same. It simply needs to take culture, relevance and influence into consideration.

D2C brands tend to be nimbler than brand advertisers when it comes to reaction time to modify marketing tactics to suit changing market conditions. Our industry has been quick to pick up that the Total Market approach comes with huge opportunity costs.  Sacrificing media spend against Hispanic target audiences may save you budget, but it will also cost you more customers. 

Concretely, this means that the Total Market approach has to give way to a Whole Market approach, especially for performance-driven marketers. This essentially means shifting the creative planning and media buying mindset to a truly comprehensive and effective total market marketing strategy that sells to the entire target audience, because while it continues to address the overall general market needs, it also adjusts to reach and sell to underserved multi-ethnic segments. 

In the end, this “wholistic” process allows for more multicultural efficiencies, but more to the point, it allows the marketer to maximize brand growth opportunities and increase total sales.

That should be the goal of any advertiser: to turn every consumer into a customer. 

For more discussion about the Total Market Pendulum, check out the infographic in our APPROACH section and go to BUZZ to view our vlog – Speaking2Hispanics  – on our website, www.d2hispanic.com 

Patricia Testa- Managing Partner – d2H Partners, LLC – 2020