Unilever Bestfoods has been marketing its Mazola Corn Oil to Hispanics for more than two decades. But it wasn't until a few months ago that it began reaching out to Chinese-Americans, whose food preparation methods often require oil.
Though Unilever now plans to sell Mazola, along with several other North American brands, the campaign exemplifies the efforts companies are making to reach ethnic markets.
Indeed, results from Census 2000 should be a wake-up call for consumer-packaged-goods companies to begin a multicultural marketing program or strengthen the one they already have.
"Census 2000 should rivet corporate America to address multicultural groups," said Saul Gitlin, vice president of strategic marketing services at Kang & Lee Advertising, a New York-based agency that specializes in the Asian-American market.
The census proves that diversity among the 281 million people in the United States has grown significantly over the last decade. Minorities now account for one-third of the nation's population, up from one-quarter in 1990.
America's three major ethnic populations -- African, Hispanic and Asian -- experienced double-digit growth gains between 1990 and 2000. The number of Hispanics soared nearly 60%; Asian-Americans, 48%; and African-Americans, about 16%.
Of the 274.6 million people who reported belonging to one race, all three groups showed impressive population counts. African-Americans numbered 34.7 million, or 12.3% of the population; and Asians, 10.2 million, or 3.6%. Hispanics, meanwhile, numbered 35.3 million, about 12.5%, while whites accounted for 211 billion, or 75%.
Another 2.4% of respondents, or 6.8 million, used a first-ever option to identify themselves as belonging to more than one race.
Ethnic populations are not only growing in size, but also economic clout. The buying power, or after-tax personal income available to spend on goods and services, for African-Americans, Native Americans and Asian-Americans is about $861 billion this year, a whopping 95.6% increase from 1990, according to predictions from the University of Georgia's Selig Center for Economic Growth.
Of all minorities, Asian-Americans (when defined as a person of Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, Filipino or other Asian or Pacific Islander descent) have improved their economic standing the most. The group has about $254 billion in buying power, up from $113 billion in 1990, a 124.8% jump.
This is higher than the increase in black buying power, which rose 85.6% to $572.1 billion, and even more than the gain for Hispanics, who command $452 billion, a 118% rise.
Since the ethnic market is much larger and economically powerful these days, marketing programs should be tailored to meet the needs of each segment, Kang & Lee's Gitlin said.
While targeted ads are appropriate in certain cases, the most successful marketers will be those that get more creative. Customized magazines, ethnic-language Web sites, tailored merchandise assortments, targeted in-store events and multimedia campaigns are among the ways companies can better demonstrate their recognition of and commitment to ethnic groups.
Following are strategies Unilever Bestfoods, Procter & Gamble Co. and Kraft Foods are using to reach ethnic consumers.
UNILEVER BESTFOODS AND ASIAN-AMERICANS
Asian-Americans have more money to spend for a number of reasons. Along with being entrepreneurs, many are better educated than the average American and, as a result, hold more top-level jobs, according to Selig. Since the population is relatively young in terms of its career stage, buying power is expected to be even more impressive down the road.
Because the group includes people from several different ancestries and cultures, niche marketing is the best way to begin an Asian-American marketing program, according to Selig.
Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based Unilever Bestfoods did just this with the Mazola event. Rather than using a national approach, it decided a grassroots effort would be better received.
The goal of the two-month test, created by Kang & Lee, was to emphasize the purity and quality of the product, according to John Rivera, former senior product manager for Mazola.
It was also aimed at improving the brand awareness of Mazola. Because of the many "me-too" products in the corn oil category, the company wanted to distinguish Mazola from other brands on the market.
"We want to leverage the Mazola brand," Rivera said.
Along with the tactics Unilever Bestfoods used, there are plenty of other ways to target the group. Despite the fact that Asian-Americans are the most likely of any group to be online, companies still underutilize the Internet as a marketing tool, Gitlin said.
More than half of Chinese-Americans have Internet access, and 97% own a PC, according to a survey by Sina.com, Sunnyvale, Calif., an Internet media and services company for Chinese communities. Three-quarters of Chinese Internet users go online every day to shop, send e-mail, engage in online trading or other activities.
P&G AND HISPANICS
Better employment opportunities, along with higher rates of immigration and entrepeneurship are helping Hispanic-American incomes grow. Also, more Hispanics are moving from entry-level jobs to better-paying positions.
Procter & Gamble Co., Cincinnati, is targeting Hispanic communities with a multifaceted program called Avanzando Con Tu Familia (advancing with your family). The purpose of the program is to support Hispanics in all aspects of their lives, including work, home and school. A main component is a publication of the same name. Distributed door-to-door in the spring and fall of each year, the magazine reaches 4.5 million Hispanics.
Managed by P&G's San Juan-based Multicultural Business Development Organization, the publication has been greatly improved since it debuted about one year ago. P&G teamed with Yupi Internet, Miami Beach, a Spanish-language portfolio of sites, to create a Spanish-language online version, www.avanzando.yupi.com.
Along with creating a Web-based version of the magazine, P&G has enhanced the print version. Responding to reader requests for more editorial content, P&G boosted the page count from 28 to 58 pages (including eight pages of coupons). The spring 2001 issue is filled with ads and coupons for many of its popular brands, as well as in-depth articles (printed in Spanish and English) on subjects including healthy eating, home security, dental health, and AIDS and HIV.
"The latest census data shows that Hispanics are equal with African-Americans in terms of population growth," said Alexander Marichal, project leader at P&G's Multicultural Business Development Organization. "Our company is positioned correctly to cater to them. We're ahead of the curve."
The publication has been refined in other ways. Now P&G not only accepts ads from outside companies, but also runs joint promotions with them. The spring issue, for instance, alerts consumers that if they buy a Gateway PC and three P&G products, they'll get a free Gateway color printer. Another ad highlights a partnership between P&G and Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pa. Consumers who send in three P&G proofs of purchase can get Rodale's Book of Home Remedies or Latin American Cookbook. Participating products include Tide, Always, Pampers and Head & Shoulders.
"We're looking to form a one-to-one relationship with our customers," said Marichal. "We want them to know we care about them and will help them reach the American Dream."
KRAFT AND AFRICAN-AMERICANS
African-American shoppers spend more on groceries than the general population, according to "The African-American Grocery Shopper," a study prepared for the Food Marketing Institute, Washington, by Kraft Foods and Procter & Gamble. The average African-American spends $5,600 a year on groceries, compared to $4,305 for the general population.
They are also highly likely to enroll in rewards programs. More than 60% are currently enrolled in shopper/rewards programs, and more would get involved if their stores offered them, according to the study.
African-American shoppers also frequently experiment with recipes and food. To tap into this trait, Kraft Foods, Northfield, Ill., ran an event in the African-American community. Contestants were asked to make a new recipe from its popular macaroni-and-cheese dinner. Publicized in several African-American magazines, the event was conducted at various grassroots events, according to Linda Crowder, Kraft's director of ethnic marketing.
Under a similar effort, Kraft developed new African-American ads for its Kool-Aid brand. The ad showed an African-American family enjoying a barbecue. Various members of the family were drinking Kool-Aid with added ingredients, like fruit.
"African-American moms frequently add fruit, soft drinks, sugar and other products to make Kool-Aid their own way," said Crowder.
Kraft has catered to African-Americans in other ways as well. Recent efforts include an African-American version of its Food & Family Magazine, and a partnership with PBS to develop a video called "Wonders of the African World." The company also tied in with the Indiana Black Expo by sponsoring an in-store cooking event featuring African-American chefs and recipes.