The Total Market debate has been going on for a while so much so that it spawned an organization to tackle the issue – Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM) under Association of National Advertisers. There are different names for today’s marketing, Total Market, integrated marketing, segmented marketing, multicultural marketing, cross-cultural marketing, all in a way reflect the change in U.S. demographics which are growing more and more diverse. Given the change in demographics, when marketers conduct market research, ideally, the research should reflect the changing demographics and provide a healthy dose of cultural insights so that marketers can decide which campaign execution approach would be most effective in delivering on marketing and business objectives.


If you send out a RFP about a market research study that covers several cultural consumer groups (General Market, Hispanic, African American, Asian American), all research companies will say they have the capabilities to handle it. But the reality is that virtually no company has all the researchers with cultural expertise on staff because the market research business fluctuates a lot and research companies have stay lean and mean to survive. So when a research company gets a multicultural research project, they will partner with another company or consultant on the project. When it comes to multicultural research, this model applies to most companies, if not all, regardless of the size of the research company. Depending on your research partner’s staff and capabilities, recruiting, moderation, translation and report writing can be outsourced. Because there are so many moving parts in this complex research supply chain, it’s quite easy for something to fall through the cracks or insights to get lost.


There is no quick fix to the status quo of multicultural research because clients are demanding competitive cost with faster delivery and research companies have to stay lean and mean to survive. However, there are a few things marketers and research buyers can do to make sure that you get the cultural insights out of a study you’re paying for:


1) Since the moderator may or may not be on staff, ask the moderator questions you have right after the focus groups. Alternatively, when you have a debrief with the marketing, agency and research team, request the moderator to be on the debrief so that you can ask questions and get answers from the moderator. In-culture, in-language moderators can often provide insights and observations that people outside of the culture can’t easily pick up.

2) Ask your research partner who is writing the report. If the moderator is not writing the report, whether the moderator will be involved in the report writing process so that the moderator’s observations and insights will be incorporated into the report.

3) If you’re conducting the quantitative study, ask your research partner whether cultural experts will be involved in the analysis process to provide cultural insights and explain the why behind the numbers.