A Total Market Approach to Cross-Cultural Marketing

The Total Market Approach (TMA) to cross-cultural marketing has become fairly widespread, especially with the bigger brands such as Coke and Nike. It’s kind of a no-brainer to use TMA these days, because there is so much diversity in consumer groups, and in some ways, trying to appeal to every unique need or niche is impossible. With TMA, you’re essentially appealing to both to the ethnic diversity of your consumer group, while pointing out how much that group has in common with all other ethnicities.

So what you’re seeing from big brands is an appeal to a shared principle, whether it be athletic achievement (Nike), enjoying a universally-loved beverage (Coke) or a love of gadgets (Apple). These brands are appealing to a cross section of cultures and ethnicities by identifying what they all have in common. Depending on the product or service being marketed, I think this approach has been successful, especially among Millennials who tend to view things far less through the prism of cultural identity, and more through the prism of shared experiences and interests.

That said, there are still some challenges to TMA, namely the fact that you really can’t sustain a business on being all things to all people. At some point, your products and services just don’t have enough of a universal appeal to cross all boundaries, and I think that’s why a lot of these brands are only using TMA in targeted campaigns.

The obvious benefit of this type of approach is that it is more affordable than trying to create campaigns that target different consumer groups. So you end up with marketing that is financially feasible, because you can sell one message to a broad consumer group.

But you can also run the risk of alienating a segment of the very group you’re targeting, because they feel that your marketing is too broad, and doesn’t speak to their specific wants and needs. Another risk you run in these campaigns is that an ethnic group may also believe you are pandering or being condescending, which of course is not your intention, but can be perceived in that way. Marketing agencies must be aware of how to their content to a diverse consumer group by identifying common wants and needs that transcend cultural and ethnic boundaries.

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