SPECIAL NOTE: Tonight's meeting is on a tight schedule to accomodate our speaker. The reception hour will be cut a little short so the meeting can start by 6:30 at the latest. We look forward to seeing you tonight!

Written by KC Sayasan

From the subtle, poignant Cheerios biracial family Superbowl spot to the recent ill-received Starbucks, #RaceTogether seemingly forced, social conversation; we can better communicate to multiethnic people by truly understanding their culture, more so ethnic insight. As we experience a more blended, multicultural society, we must work harder to adapt the mainstream advertising message for better brand connection through cultural insights that are genuine and relatable.

Vida Cornelious’ awarded broadcast, social marketing success stems from understanding cultural context throughout her twenty-year creative advertising career. Simply put, Vida stresses seeing the human first, then race second. We are different so therefore we have different value systems via our cultural upbringing. For instance, one value system held by Hispanics are that of interdependence, African Americans are about collective freedom, and the Mainstream Americans value independence. 

Vida’s Jeep Compass SUV, “Bloodline” campaign utilizes celebrity daughters/sons such as Laila Ali (daughter of Muhammed Ali) and Scott Caan (son of James Caan), famous own their on rite also as successors of their parents’ legacy. The print ads and television spots resonated with Hispanic millennials as they touched on familial heritage, an ethnic value or insight, the key to get inside the mind of the consumer. Vida confirmed the Compass campaign managed to increase more interest in Hispanic market and ROI for the “Jan Brady” of Jeep vehicles, she quipped.

Returning to Starbucks #RaceTogether example, what does the brand have permission to do?

Starbucks had good intention though a random racial conversation between your barista (that puts too much ice in your iced coffee, while you’re hurriedly on your way to work) can be much too awkward. Yes it is timely yet sensitive, bold somewhat off-putting given the current discussion of civil unrest from Ferguson to Freddie Gray regarding the consequential deaths of African Americans under police custody. Undoubtedly, the U.S. race issue is paramount, complex, endemic to the country’s history, its people so it needs to be discuss for progressive change, catharsis, its own survival. Perhaps too big for a coffee franchise to serve to its customers currently, the effort is commendable. 

What if Starbucks had guided the conversation to focus on its store being the community’s diverse meeting place as mentioned in the Vida’s Q&A session. Social issues shouldn’t be off limits for advertisers, creatives, planners, or anyone. We all strive and thrive in making engaging, meaningful work that creates dialogue about our culture or at best even affect it. We are in an fast paced, evolving, industry talking to more new ethnic groups with more communication channels. Therein lies the opportunities for infinite solutions to new problems, so we must use those unique ethnic insights to achieve a deeper brand conversation. Hopefully also learn something new about each other, day to day, one coffee cup at a time.