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The ethnic majority?

With the new millennium approaching, how can you ensure that you're reaching all the potential segments of the kids market effectively......
February 1, 1999

With the new millennium approaching, how can you ensure that you’re reaching all the potential segments of the kids market effectively…

Did you know that by the year 2010, more than one-third of the U.S. population will be comprised of what is now termed ethnic minorities, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans and Native Americans? Ethnic marketers do. In fact, they’re known to throw out even more impressive statistics, like the fact that our ethnic population has the largest household size, and that these households have a greater number of kids (Caucasian – 2.9, African-American – 3.4, Hispanic-American – 3.8, Asian-American – 3.9, American Indian/Eskimo – 3.4). And that’s why smart marketers are devising targeted ways to reach this fastest-growing population in the U.S.

Still, when faced with the concept of ethnic marketing, some point to the fact that ethnic minorities are becoming more assimilated into our culture. Why, then, in this more homogenous society, do we need to single out the ethnic population? Aren’t they reachable by marketing to the general population?

Ethnic marketers create ways to zero in on the ethnic population for the same reason that cable channels continue to slice up the pie and create more targeted channels (HBO Family, Toon Disney, BET Jazz, etc.), and for the same reason that Essence, Ebony, Latina and a host of other ethnically targeted media exist and thrive. The key to their success is the idea that everyone is not the same, and the successful marketer for the future will find a way to talk to and connect with every segment of their audience in a relevant way.

The influence of the urban ethnic market cannot be understated, especially in the youth market. Think about the most popular kids’ music, fashion and language. It’s all influenced and shaped by the urban youth market-the ‘ethnic market.’ Witness the birth of street marketing in the hip-hop industry, where scores of teens ‘place’ an artist’s music in the hands of other teens before it hits the airwaves.

It seems that the kids segment of the entertainment industry (with the exception of music) is still in catch-up mode with their consumer packaged goods counterparts. Consumer marketers have learned that brands can be segmented by audience, and that even something as basic as a box of cereal has to find a way to differentiate itself in the cluttered supermarket aisle.

Several consumer packaged goods companies have devoted resources specifically to the ethnic market (General Mills, Reebok, Nabisco, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Hallmark cards and QSRs like Burger King and McDonald’s). Service companies have also created programs to address this (AT&T, American Express, Allstate Insurance). And even when companies have created an ethnic function and then disbanded it, they learned about the market through research and specific marketing programs, and then made it a way of life by integrating it into their brand management systems.

Recent examples of entertainment companies that have jumped on the bandwagon and are utilizing ethnic marketing strategies for kids titles are Twentieth Century Fox for the video release of Dr. Doolittle (the studio developed a special African-American targeted campaign) and the new animated direct-to-video release Our Friend Martin. Other examples include targeted publicity efforts via African-American newspapers for video titles such as Nickelodeon’s Gullah Gullah Island and HBO’s Happily Ever After Fairy Tales. Some examples in the Hispanic market include CTW’s targeted programs for its Plaza Sesamo. Most recently, Nickelodeon announced plans to develop a pilot for a Rugrats spin-off TV series that will focus on Susie Carmichael (the show’s African-American character).

By way of example, Tell Me Who I Am, an animated children’s video targeted to the ethnic market and developed by Kid Positive (see ‘African-American kidvids: from niche distribution paths to head-to-head at retail,’ page R12 of the October 1998 KidScreen, searchable at www.kidscreen.com), effectively reached the target audience by developing a grassroots ethnic marketing campaign. Initially only available through direct marketing, Tell Me Who I Am utilized targeted publicity as well as print advertising (Essence, Ebony), and marketed directly to the African-American community by attending local Black Expo fairs, exhibiting at African-American professional organization conferences and offering the product at venues where African-American parents shop (African-American bookstores). They are now in the process of securing promo partners and sponsors for the retail video release.

So the question becomes. . . how do you develop an effective ethnic program for the kids market? Here are some key do’s and dont’s on how to begin developing programs to effectively reach this growing market:

* Research your market: Recognize important characteristics that are similar and different about kids within this segment. Understand how your brand is relevant to the specific ethnic audience that you’re trying to reach. Nuances like appropriate words and images are extremely important to capture. Utilize the resources of companies with experience developingid you know that by the year 2010, more than one-third of the U.S. population will be comprised of what is now termed ethnic minorities, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans and Native Americans? Ethnic marketers do. In fact, they’re known to throw out even more impressive statistics, like the fact that our ethnic population has the largest household size, and that these households have a greater number of kids (Caucasian – 2.9, African-American – 3.4, Hispanic-American – 3.8, Asian-American – 3.9, American Indian/Eskimo – 3.4). And that’s why smart marketers are devising targeted ways to reach this fastest-growing population in the U.S.

Still, when faced with the concept of ethnic marketing, some point to the fact that ethnic minorities are becoming more assimilated into our culture. Why, then, in this more homogenous society, do we need to single out the ethnic population? Aren’t they reachable by marketing to the general population?

Ethnic marketers create ways to zero in on the ethnic population for the same reason that cable channels continue to slice up the pie and create more targeted channels (HBO Family, Toon Disney, BET Jazz, etc.), and for the same reason that Essence, Ebony, Latina and a host of other ethnically targeted media exist and thrive. The key to their success is the idea that everyone is not the same, and the successful marketer for the future will find a way to talk to and connect with every segment of their audience in a relevant way.

The influence of the urban ethnic market cannot be understated, especially in the youth market. Think about the most popular kids’ music, fashion and language. It’s all influenced and shaped by the urban youth market-the ‘ethnic market.’ Witness the birth of street marketing in the hip-hop industry, where scores of teens ‘place’ an artist’s music in the hands of other teens before it hits the airwaves.

It seems that the kids segment of the entertainment industry (with the exception of music) is still in catch-up mode with their consumer packaged goods counterparts. Consumer marketers have learned that brands can be segmented by audience, and that even something as basic as a box of cereal has to find a way to differentiate itself in the cluttered supermarket aisle.

Several consumer packaged goods companies have devoted resources specifically to the ethnic market (General Mills, Reebok, Nabisco, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Hallmark cards and QSRs like Burger King and McDonald’s). Service companies have also created programs to address this (AT&T, American Express, Allstate Insurance). And even when companies have created an ethnic function and then disbanded it, they learned about the market through research and specific marketing programs, and then made it a way of life by integrating it into their brand management systems.

Recent examples of entertainment companies that have jumped on the bandwagon and are utilizing ethnic marketing strategies for kids titles are Twentieth Century Fox for the video release of Dr. Doolittle (the studio developed a special African-American targeted campaign) and the new animated direct-to-video release Our Friend Martin. Other examples include targeted publicity efforts via African-American newspapers for video titles such as Nickelodeon’s Gullah Gullah Island and HBO’s Happily Ever After Fairy Tales. Some examples in the Hispanic market include CTW’s targeted programs for its Plaza Sesamo. Most recently, Nickelodeon announced plans to develop a pilot for a Rugrats spin-off TV series that will focus on Susie Carmichael (the show’s African-American character).

By way of example, Tell Me Who I Am, an animated children’s video targeted to the ethnic market and developed by Kid Positive (see ‘African-American kidvids: from niche distribution paths to head-to-head at retail,’ page R12 of the October 1998 KidScreen, searchable at www.kidscreen.com), effectively reached the target audience by developing a grassroots ethnic marketing campaign. Initially only available through direct marketing, Tell Me Who I Am utilized targeted publicity as well as print advertising (Essence, Ebony), and marketed directly to the African-American community by attending local Black Expo fairs, exhibiting at African-American professional organization conferences and offering the product at venues where African-American parents shop (African-American bookstores). They are now in the process of securing promo partners and sponsors for the retail video release.

So the question becomes. . . how do you develop an effective ethnic program for the kids market? Here are some key do’s and dont’s on how to begin developing programs to effectively reach this growing market:

* Research your market: Recognize important characteristics that are similar and different about kids within this segment. Understand how your brand is relevant to the specific ethnic audience that you’re trying to reach. Nuances like appropriate words and images are extremely important to capture. Utilize the resources of companies with experience developing products specifically for various segments of the ethnic market.

* Ensure that advertising used speaks to your audience and is culturally relevant: Use an image that connects with your market. A perfect example of this are the ads used by the Walt Disney Theme Parks in African-American magazines. Photos of guests enjoying the park include all ethnicities and Mickey Mouse is dressed differently. Imagine the surprise and connection African-American families feel when they turn to a page in a magazine and see Mickey dressed in an African Kente cloth outfit.

* Consider partnership marketing: Form strategic alliances or cross-promotions with established ethnic product marketers who can lend instant credibility and help establish your product with their customers and create the connection. A simple, yet direct way to accomplish this is through cross-promotional tie-ins in which you offer a premium (video, storybook) in your package.

* Consider sponsorship at the local level for your product or property through cultural events: These can include kids’ fairs, local dance companies, family events at theme parks, churches, ethnic street festivals, cause-related programs, etc. One example is General Mills’s sponsorship of the only African-American circus, UniverSoul Circus. Another example is Columbia House Record Club’s promoting its products at Latin street festivals. Yet another example is the ‘African-American Women on Tour’ conferences co-sponsored by Hallmark, Kellogg’s, Mobil Oil and American Airlines.

* Consider retail-based events developed around key ethnic holidays: Develop programs around key ethnic holidays like African-American History Month, Cinco de Mayo or Kwanzaa. The idea is to create a program or co-branded promotion with your product and a product that is relevant and ties in with the holiday (videos, greeting cards, books, packaged goods, etc.).

In summary, the use of focused kid efforts is as important in the ethnic market as it is in any other segment. This market is growing by leaps and bounds; when developing your marketing plans, you simply can’t afford to leave out this important sector.

Karen Grace-Baker is president of Kid Kulture, an L.A.-based marketing consulting firm specializing in the development of marketing and promotional strategies for the children’s market. Previously, she served in executive marketing positions in the children’s video and music division at Sony Wonder, and in the kids TV department at The Walt Disney Company. She can be reached on-line at Kidkulture@aol.com

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