What Is Ethnic Marketing?

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  • Written By: Terry Masters
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2019
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Ethnic marketing is the process of designing product campaigns and advertising to appeal to certain racially, ethnically or culturally-related consumer groups. It is a type of market segmentation that attempts to target specific groups with more focused and appropriately presented messages. This type of marketing can be used for positive or negative business purposes.

Marketing introduces products to consumers and tries to convince them to make a purchase. It is a function of an integrated strategy that incorporates such things as packaging and advertising to develop a product image and encourage consumer behavior based on that image. Businesses have the option of treating all potential customers the same and tailoring the product image to what would appeal to the majority or breaking the overall market into segments and devising different messages for each individual segment.

A business can segment a market based on various characteristics. For example, segmentations can be based on geographical location, gender or age. One of the most effective, but sometimes controversial, segmentations is by ethnicity. Ethnic marketing attempts to tailor advertising and other marketing strategies to the interests and tastes of an identified ethnic group that is perceived to have untapped buying potential. In the US, for instance, popular ethnic segments include African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans.


The way ethnic marketing attempts to capitalize on the untapped buying potential of an ethnic group is by using special tactics that are designed to capture that segment's attention. An ethnic marketing campaign that is targeted toward Hispanics might use Spanish instead of English for text and audio copy. Likewise, such an advertising campaign might use Hispanic models, instead of the Caucasian models used in the primary campaign targeted to other consumers. These changes are designed to better align the advertising message to the specific needs and interests of the target group. The theory is to allow the consumers to see themselves in the advertising, or someone they can relate to, rather than a stranger with nothing in common with their life experiences.

This type of marketing that highlights perceived characteristics of a minority group can be used for positive or negative business purposes. Generally, doing things like translating advertising into other languages and adding diversity to the advertising images presented is a positive marketing tactic that shows respect for the target group. Some businesses, however, tap into stereotypes to promote negative images and behavior. For example, some companies heavily target ethnic groups for alcohol and cigarette advertising, perpetuating the negative stereotype that minority groups spend more money on these types of unhealthy products than on more positive products. Other companies take general stereotypes and translate them into marketing material that can be perceived as offensive when applied universally.


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